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India To Withdraw Large Chunk Of Para-military Forces From Kashmir

The Indian government said Wednesday it would withdraw a "significant" number of battalions of its para-military forces from the northern-most state of Jammu and Kashmir, following the lowest extent of violence this year since the uprising in 1989.

The move for a gradual transfer of the maintenance of law and order to the state police is seen as a significant confidence-building measure following initiatives for holding a "quiet" dialogue with separatist groups operating in the valley.

Replying to a short-duration discussion on internal security in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament), Home Minister P Chidambaram said the decision was taken in view of the improvement of the law-and-order situation in the state.

He said though there was an element of "risk" attached to the move, there was no let-up in the vigil regarding infiltration.

He reiterated the government's zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism, be it 'jihadi' violence or Hindu extremist violence.

Chidambaram, who was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs from Finance after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, said the government would not shy away from talking with any organization--including those demanding the right to either self-determination or self-rule.

The minister also sought to reach out to separatist outfits in the North-East like ULFA as also Naxalite groups, saying the government was ready to hold dialogue if they gave up violence.

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