NEW DELHI - Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has dismissed the contention that time has come to repeal the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the security forces special rights and immunity in carrying out operations in “disturbed areas” like Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.
“I do not think time has come to even rethink on AFSPA at the moment,” Gen Rawat was quoted as saying by PTI. He, however, insisted that the Army has been taking adequate precautions in protecting human rights while operating in such areas.
The Army chief was answering queries on reports that government was re-examining the demand for a milder version of AFSPA in these states.
His comments assume significance as they come amid reports that several rounds of high-level discussions have taken place between the defence and home ministries on the “need to remove or dilute at least some provisions” of the AFSPA.
There has been a long-standing demand from various sections to withdraw the act as AFSPA remains a thorny issue in J-K and the Northeast areas.
Acknowledging that the AFSPA has certain strong provisions, the Chief of the Army staff, however, pointed out that the Army is concerned about collateral damages and ensuring that its operations under the stipulated law do not cause inconvenience the local people.
“We have never been strong in applying the force the way it could be applied (under AFSPA). We are very concerned about human rights. We are absolutely concerned about collateral damage. So do not get too much concerned because we are taking adequate measures and precautions,” he said.
“The AFSPA is an enabling provision which allows the Army in particular to operate in such difficult areas and let me assure you that the Army has got quite a good human rights record.”
When asked whether there was room for more coordination between external and internal intelligence gathering to effectively contain cross border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir , he said the armed forces and all other agencies have been operating in unison.
“At this juncture, the kind of cooperation we are having among the intelligence agencies is of a very high order. Today all the intelligence agencies and the security forces are operating in unison.
There is an excellent synergy among all of us and I do not think we can take it to the next higher level from what is happening at the moment. I think this is the best way and right way,” the Army chief said.
The Army has been pursuing an aggressive anti-terror policy in strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir .