13 Sep : 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.
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 in New Delhi.
“We are willing to talk to every person or group which abjures violence, within the framework of our Constitution,” he said.
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 is expected to discuss this issue at the Cabinet Committee on Security.
Army, supported by Defence Minister A K 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.
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.”
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.
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.