Grievances of Kashmiris need to be addressed: PM

PM Manmohan Singh emphasised on the need for better delivery of services and generating avenues for economic advancement of the people of J&K.

New Delhi: Voicing concern over the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday sought to reach out to the people there, saying their
grievances have to be addressed and promised talks within the Indian Constitution with those who abjure violence.

His address came hours before the PM chaired a Cabinet Committee on Security meet on the situation.

As his government weighs options to deal with the situation in Kashmir, Singh emphasised on the need for better delivery of services and generating avenues for economic advancement of the people of the state.

"Unrest in the state of Jammu and Kashmir over the last few weeks is a matter of concern. The youth of Kashmir are our citizens and their grievances have to be addressed," he told top commanders of the armed forces at a conference here.

"We are willing to talk to every person or group which abjures violence, within the framework of our Constitution," he said.

Dr Singh, however, made no mention of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Act), whose withdrawal from the state is being sought by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

The Prime Minister discussed this issue at the Cabinet Committee on Security. The pros and cons of a phased withdrawal of AFSPA from some areas in the border state
as part of the package were deliberated at the crucial

Army, supported by Defence Minister AK Antony, is strongly opposed to the revocation or dilution of the law, arguing that the situation in the state was not conducive for such a step.

Antony had articulated these views at the Congress Core Committee meeting chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi last Friday. The group was divided on the issue, with Home Minister P Chidambaram backing the proposal for partial withdrawal of the special law that gives sweeping powers and immunity to the security personnel.

`Armed forces deserve the best`

Hailing the security forces for securing the nation`s interest, apart from disaster mitigation, the Prime Minister said the armed forces "deserve the best" and assured them of government`s support to ensure this.

"Our armed forces deserve the best and I wish to assure you that the government will make every effort to ensure this. No country can make progress without ensuring its security and territorial integrity," he said.

Asking the defence forces to set higher standards for their modernisation in view of economy growing and technological capabilities expanding, Singh said, "It is not
enough for us to keep pace with change. When it comes to defence capability, we must be ahead of the technology curve."

Terming defence modernisation as "a complex task," Singh said, "If it is to be effective, it must involve the full chain starting with updating our war fighting doctrines to meet new threats to our security, preparation of appropriate staff quality requirements and creating a broad-based production and delivery infrastructure on the ground."

Noting that border infrastructure was an integral part of defence preparedness, he said this involved not just the land borders, but also ensuring appropriate coastal security for
which several measures had been initiated.

"But it is important that all ministries and departments work in close coordination to ensure timely implementation of existing plans. It is necessary to approach this task with a sense of urgency," he added.

`Naxalsim a serious challenge`

Describing Naxalism as "a serious challenge" to internal security, the Prime Minister said the government would do all that was necessary to protect each and every citizen of the
country and deal firmly with those, who resorted to violence.

"This is a collective task involving the Centre and the states. At the same time, we have to accelerate our development efforts in the Naxal-affected areas and make our
administrative machinery more sensitive and responsive to local concerns," he added.

Pointing out that the nation`s strength flowed from the strength of its institutions, values and economic competitiveness, Singh said if India was looked upon today with respect and seen as a force for the future, it was because of the stable and orderly fashion in which the country was transforming the lives of its people.

"Transformation on such a scale, within the framework of a democratic and pluralistic society, has not been seen in the world before. If we succeed, our example will have
repercussions for the new global order," he added.