Experts panel set up to study J&K troops cut

New Delhi, Mar 30 | Updated: Mar 31 2007, 05:30am hrs
Signalling an end to the crisis troubling the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre, bowing to the demands of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Friday announced the formation of a high-level expert panel, which will delve into the issue of reduction of troops from civilian areas in the state.

A victorious PDP, satisfied that the ball had been set rolling now on finding a process to ease troops presence in J&K, promptly asked its ministers to get back to work.

Strain in the Congress-PDP coalition that grew owing to differences with chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, turned into a full-blown crisis last week with the PDP threatening to pull out of the coalition and asking its ministers to stay away from Cabinet meetings.

The PDP had set tough conditionsa pullout of troops from civilian areas and better cooperation from the chief ministerfor the government to continue. Following parleys in the last few days between the top Congress brass here and the PDP leadership, the crisis was resolved.

Announcing the setting up of the expert panel, Prime Ministers media advisor Sanjaya Baru said it would be headed by defence secretary Shekhar Dutt and would look into the ways and means to relocate and reconfigure the security forces in J&K. It would also include representatives from ministers of defence, home, the Armed forces and the J&K government. However, no time frame has been decided for the withdrawal of the troops.

According to an official release, while looking into the possibilities of reduction of troops, the panel would ensure that cardinal aspects of security are not compromised in any manner.

At the same time a review committee would look into the aspects of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act to different areas of J&K.

Recommendations by the expert panel and the review committee would be taken into consideration by another high powered committee headed by the defence minister AK Antony.

The Antony Committee would comprise of representatives from the Centre and the J&K government.

It was also announced that the state has already initiated action to return several properties, buildings, orchards being occupied by the security forces.