Indian army chief calls for political solution in Kashmir

NEW DELHI: The head of the Indian army has called for a political solution to unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir, saying the military should step back from its security role in the region.


India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1947, but the last major troop build-up was in 2002 after gunmen attacked the parliament in New Delhi, with the alleged backing of Pakistan.

Street violence in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley has increased in recent weeks after the deaths of several unarmed civilians who were killed as troops sought to contain protests against rule from New Delhi.

“I feel there is a great requirement for political initiatives that take all people together,” General V.K. Singh told the Times of India in an interview published Wednesday.

“Militarily, we have brought the overall internal security situation in Jammu and Kashmir under control. Now, the need is to handle things politically.”

Singh added that local police “need to be more active” to allow the army, currently numbering about 500,000, to reduce its presence in the region.

Three Indian soldiers and five suspected militants were killed in the latest gunbattle that started late Monday along the Line of Control (LoC) border that splits Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

The army said the militants were involved in one of many attempts to “infiltrate” the Indian-controlled sector from the Pakistani side.

Despite the street protests and border clashes, the insurgency has lessened in recent years amid peace talks between the two nations.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1947, but the last major troop build-up was in 2002 after gunmen attacked the parliament in New Delhi, with the alleged backing of Pakistan.

“The armed forces are required to undertake operations in very difficult circumstances,” Singh said. “If the Jammu and Kashmir situation has come under control, it’s the forces which have sacrificed with their blood.”

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