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'Troops reduction in JK depends on threat perception'

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 23: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the level of forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir would depend on ''threat perceptions and security assessment'' and that he was hopeful of resolving the differences with the PDP, the coalition partner of the Congress-led government in that state.

As and when the situation improved, ''we will ourselves take steps for proper reduction of troops,'' Dr Singh told reporters who wanted to know whether he had given any assurance to former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed during the talks here yesterday.

''Our forces are not an army of occupied forces. They are there to protect the lives and liberty of the people. When the necessity disappears, we will bring about the reduction in forces. These are not static levels. If the security situation improves, we will review the matter,'' he said.

The Prime Minister said he was hopeful of bringing about ''harmony and reconciliation'' between the Congress and the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir as he found that all leaders were patriots.

''They may have differences in perception, but their objective is the same'' -- to ensure that people of Jammu and Kashmir lead a life of dignity and peace.

Asked about his proposed visit to Pakistan, he said he had accepted the invitation of President Pervez Musharraf, but the dates were yet to be finalised.

On the coming 14th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), he said India would seek to promote the collective prosperity of the region through a sense of inter-dependence.

About the NDA's demand that President A P J Abdul Kalam visit Nandigram, the scene of violence in West Bengal over acquisition of farm land for setting up a industrial hub, he said this was a free country and everybody had a right to make suggestions.

To a query on J and K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's statement that cross-border infiltration had doubled of late, he said the Centre was keeping a close watch on the situation. Sometimes the level of infiltration went up and sometimes down, he said.

Dr Singh was talking to reporters at the Padma Awards function.


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