Time not right for removal of AFSPA: Army Chief



New Delhi: The time is "not right" for the removal of AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh said on Friday emphasising that any decision on this "should not be politicised".

"We only make recommendations. If I was to be asked, I would say that the time is not right at the moment to tamper with this enabling act. We should not take away AFSPA at this juncture," he said when asked to comment on the issue.

The Army Chief, who was speaking at a conclave, was asked to comment on Union Minister Farooq Abdullah's demand for repeal of the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) from the state.

There have been similar demands voiced by his son and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, other political leaders and separatists in the Valley.

"It is important to observe the situation and it is important to understand the security contours of the situation before we take a decision. The decision should be a pragmatic one, it should be in national interest and it should not be politicised," he said.

Gen Singh said the Indian Army was working for strengthening the hands of the State Government and the day it feels it can handle the situation on its own, "then period. Go ahead".

The Army Chief observed that the terror infrastructure across the Line of Control (LoC) was still intact. One of the terrorists killed in the Tuesday attack on CRPF troops in Srinagar was of Pakistani origin and a number of external factors were "impinging" on the security environment in the State, he said.

"This decision (on AFSPA) has to be taken in the backdrop of violence profile, in the backdrop of what can happen in future, in the backdrop of futuristic contours. We have to be very confident that it does not relapse. We shall not be left in a position of disadvantage," Gen Singh said.

On suggestions that the Army was not listening to the Government on the issue as Finance Minister had stated that the Government wants the law to go but Army has objections on it, he said, "If a decision is taken by the Government, we are ready to relocate".

Replying to a query whether the Army did not want to move out of the counter-insurgency roles, Gen Singh said, "We are losing our officers and men day in and day out. We are not there for fun."

"We are there as the nation wants us to be there. We are not getting fun out of dying. We are there because we are mandated to do so."

He said it was seen that when the conditions are not good, "no one says anything but whenever things are improving in the counter-insurgency operations, you will find that there is anti-Army rhetoric."

The Army Chief said the force was not in the state for any "Army centric" agenda and was performing its tasks in the national interest.

The Army, he said, did not want to be involved in internal security operations for very long.

In the recent past, political outfits in the state and its Chief Minister Omar Abdullah have been advocating the removal of the controversial act from some parts of the state but the Army has been in opposition to this demand.

PTI