India looks to cut troops, Kashmiris call for full withdrawal

India could reduce troops in "populated areas" of Kashmir and allow greater access to visitors from the Pakistani side, a top official said on Friday.

India looks to cut troops, Kashmiris call for full withdrawal

India could reduce troops in "populated areas" of Kashmir and allow greater access to visitors from the Pakistani side, a top official said on Friday.

Indian police killed more than 100 people in the protests, which started in June.

Last month, India's Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said the contours of a political solution to the protests were expected within a few months.

India announced an eight-point confidence-building initiative in September that helped calm the June protests.

It scaled back security in the region, offered talks, gave compensation to the families of dead protesters and promised to review the scope for limiting a much-hated law that gives the military sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot.

Kashmiris see India as an “occupier” and accuse troops of systematic violations, killing dozens of civilians in Himalayan region.

"25 pc in 12 months"

Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told Reuters the government was looking at cutting troops by "25 percent in 12 months from populated areas".

"If we can manage with local police, that would be the most ideal situation, and this is one of the confidence-building measures, that people don't get harassed by the over-presence of security forces," Pillai later told reporters.

Pillai said the government was also considering giving Pakistani Kashmiris six-month, multiple entry permits to visit relatives on the Indian side. They now get a 15-day permit.

Tens of thousands of Muslims have been killed since pro-independent moves grew against Indian rule in 1989.

"Full withdrawal"

Kashmiri pro-independence leaders demanded full withdrawal of Indian forces, numbering about half a million, including soldiers across the disputed region.

"India is trying to hoodwink the international community by announcing such things," Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a senior Muslim leader seen as the face of the June protests, said.

In 1948, the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a referendum for Kashmir to determine whether the Himalayan region should be part of India and Pakistan. But India has rejected to hold referendum in Kashmiri territory.

Kashmiri groups and parties have long demanded the withdrawal of Indian troops and scrapping of "anti-terrorism" laws, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that gives sweeping powers to security forces in Kashmir, where about 500,000 troops are stationed.


Agencies

Last Mod: 14 Ocak 2011, 11:43
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