India ready to withdraw troops from Kashmir
* Home minister says he favours ‘quiet talks’ with Kashmiris
* No dialogue with Pakistan until conditions met
NEW DELHI: India’s home minister said on Wednesday the government was prepared to withdraw a “significant” number of troops from Indian-held Kashmir (IHK).
Briefing lawmakers in parliament on the state of domestic security, P Chidambaram noted that militant violence in the region had dropped in the past few years.
“I would take what appears to be a risky step of withdrawing a significant number of battalions of security forces in Kashmir,” the minister told members of parliament, according to the Press Trust of India.
“We are now transferring more and more law and order duties to the Kashmir police,” the news agency quoted him as saying.
The minister, however, did not state how many troops would be withdrawn or give a timetable for their pullout.
In June, he made a similar pledge, announcing that India was ready to phase out the presence of a large number of its troops across the disputed region, but gave no time frame.
If the withdrawal plans are implemented, it would mark the first time Indian armed forces have been pulled out from the region since the insurgency erupted.
The presence of Indian soldiers in IHK has long been a major source of tension in the region where rebels have battled New Delhi’s rule for two decades.
Quiet talks: Chidambaram also said Kashmir had a number of groups with a number of demands. Even though some groups demanded the right of self-determination or self-rule “I do not think we should shy away from talking to any group.”
He said he was in favour of quiet talks and quiet diplomacy, away from the glare of the media. “At the appropriate stage, I will share with the house the contours of the settlement that may emerge,” he added.
The minister said both he and the Indian prime minister had offered to talk to every group and the response had been encouraging.
More conditions: The minister also said there would be no talks with Pakistan unless Indian conditions for the resumption of dialogue were met.
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already stated, “unless Pakistan brings to book the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and dismantles the terrorist infrastructure on its soil, there is no scope for talks with Pakistan.” agencies