The Indian Army wants the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir to become completely normal so that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act can be removed from the region, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Saturday.

The removal of the Act from 23 districts of Assam and 15 police jurisdictions each in Manipur and Nagaland was the result of durable peace and stability in these areas, the minister added. He was speaking at a function in Guwahati to honour veterans of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan.

“Some people believe that the Indian Army does not want the removal of AFSPA,” the minister said. “Today, I want to say...that the Army’s role in matters of internal security is a minimal one. The Army wants the situation in Jammu and Kashmir to become completely normal, so that AFSPA can be removed from there as well.”

AFSPA gives Army personnel in “disturbed areas” sweeping powers to search, arrest, and open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”. The entire Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been classified as a disturbed area under the Act.

On March 31, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while announcing the removal of AFSPA from some parts of the North East, said that the government took the decision as a result of “the improved security situation and fast-tracked development” in the region.

Demands for the removal of AFSPA from the North East had gained prominence after the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland’s Mon district in December.