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Partial Paranoia
Indian Army holds fast to the AFSPA umbrella in the Valley

Srinagar: There are no surprises on the army’s position on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 (AFSPA), which was imposed in the Valley in 1990 and by 2002, with the exception of Leh and Kargil districts in the entire state. It says that it is too early to even partially lift AFSPA. While conceding that 2011 was an incident free season that witnessed unprecedented tourism, it is quick to point out that one swallow does not make a summer. In a series of presentations made recently to the state governor, chief minister, and the team of central secretaries headed by the union cabinet secretary, the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt Gen. K.T. Parnaik and GOC 15 corps, Lt Gen. Ata Hasnain have maintained that without the overall AFSPA umbrella, the army will find it difficult to continue counter-insurgency operations in the state. The army chief, General V.K. Singh has publicly backed his field commanders.

When by its own assessment there are no more than 300 militants operating in the state, why should AFSPA not be lifted in parts, especially from those cities and towns, which under the state police supported by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), have largely remained free of terrorist violence? The army argues that there are few indications of a Pakistani change of heart on the proxy war. The terrorist infrastructure across the Line of Control remains intact and undiminished, infiltration continues, a large number of terrorists are waiting to breach the LC, and the numbers of over ground workers have not reduced. If anything, there has been a change in tactics, from ‘violent terrorism’ to ‘agitational terrorism’ as witnessed in the Valley in the last three years, at the behest of the Pakistani handlers. This is the enemy ploy to get the army (Rashtriya Rifles) out of the state. What the army does not say but hints well is that the AFSPA should remain undiluted until the Kashmir resolution comes about. But what is the connection between anti-infiltration operations across the LC and AFSPA in cities and town?
 
The infiltrators need logistics providers, financiers, guides and planners who are entrenched in cities and towns and are the backbone of terrorism. Once army intelligence intercepts terrorists’ communications, it needs the AFSPA cover to both eliminate infiltrators and to swiftly apprehend or identify over ground workers to keep them under watch. Then, there are high value targets like the 15 corps headquarters in Badami Bagh (Srinagar) and other important nodes that are better protected under AFSPA cover, says the army. The issue is not that the AFSPA can be removed from areas where there is little army presence. The issue is that an absence of AFSPA from areas will help established terrorist havens there, is the army’s cardinal argument.  
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The army, however, is quick to point out the self-imposed restrictions that are the core of its ‘hearts and mind’ strategy. In the 85 terrorists that it has eliminated in 2011, the army has not done any cordon and searches, but has relied on real time accurate intelligence. The numbers of vehicle check points and road opening patrols being done by the army have reduced. There are fewer armed escort vehicles with major army convoys, and since the coming of Lt Gen. Hasnain as the corps commander, civilian vehicles easily get the right of way from long lumbering convoys. The army personnel (RR) are strictly following the Chief of Army Staff’s commandments in the form of do’s and don’ts meant to ensure that civilians are treated with due respect.
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