AK Antony discusses Naxal threat with forces chiefs

AK Antony discusses Naxal threat with forces chiefs

New Delhi: Defence minister A.K. Antony met the three chiefs of the Armed Forces on Tuesday to discuss the role they may play in a crackdown on Maoist insurgents.

The talks came ahead of a meeting of the cabinet committee on security (CCS) that is likely to discuss enlisting the military to fight the Maoists.

Maoist violence has grown in the last two months and scores of civilians, paramilitary and police personnel have been killed, raising calls that the military must be brought in to defeat them.

“Defence minister held talks with three chiefs—(army chief) General V.K. Singh, (air force chief) Air Marshal P.V. Naik and (navy chief) Admiral Nirmal Verma—and defence secretary Pradeep Kumar for nearly 90 minutes," defence ministry spokesman Sithansu Kar said. “They reviewed all dimensions of the security situation in the country."

A ministry official said on condition of anonymity that the meet discussed the likely role of the Armed Forces in fighting the rebels in nine of the states that have been worst-hit by their rebellion—Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

In the past, Antony and the chiefs have been reluctant to involve the forces in anti-Maoist operations.

But on Monday, the defence minister said: “We are carefully examining all pros and cons...and once a decision is made, it will be binding on the military."

The same day, home minister P. Chidambaram blamed the Maoists for a 28 May train accident in West Bengal that killed at least 147 people.