India to raise seven army battalions from Kashmir
* Mufti Sayeed rejects idea of ending Indus Water Treaty
SRINAGAR: Held Kashmir chief minister announced on Thursday that New Delhi has agreed to raise a further seven army battalions in the bitterly disputed region in a bid to counter growing unemployment.
The battalions will absorb some 8,000 Kashmiri youths, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed said in a statement. He said the new force will be part of Indian army and soldiers will be recruited from districts bordering Azad Kashmir.
“The state government has been allowed to raise the seven battalions (by India’s defence ministry) to improve the defence capability and meet with the unemployment scenario,” Sayeed said.
He said three battalions would be raised in the northern Kashmir valley, while four would be trained in the southern Jammu region of the Himalayan state. India’s defence ministry gave the nod for the creation of the fresh battalions after Sayeed urged Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Defence Minister George Fernandes to help tackle the state’s unemployment problem.
Officials estimate there more than 300,000 unemployed educated youths in Held Kashmir, many of whom have been taking nominal jobs to sustain themselves.
Treaty: Sayeed said he was not in favour of scrapping a water treaty between India and Pakistan that benefits both countries but not his region. The Indus Water Treaty signed in 1960. “We don’t want to increase tension between India and Pakistan in view of already strained relations of the two neighbours,” Sayeed added. “India is a responsible nation and due to international commitment it may not be possible for it to ask for scrap of the treaty.”
Sayeed said his government would seek compensation for the state for losses suffered because of the treaty. He said he would make a strong plea to New Delhi to ask Pakistan to allow the state to construct a water barrage in northern Kashmir. “It would help Kashmir to revive a navigational transport system and increase (water) storage capacity for the benefit of the people,” he said. —AFP