Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh has said that it is time to review the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state, PTI reported on Thursday. However, the fact that the state shares borders with neigbouring countries should be considered when the review takes place, he said on Wednesday.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”, and to do so with a degree of immunity from prosecution.

“Manipur is a peaceful state now, but the country’s security must be a priority,” Singh told a group of journalists in Imphal. “The financial and arms supply by foreign countries cannot be ruled out.”

Singh said that counterinsurgency in states like Manipur and Nagaland is “very difficult”, The Sentinel reported. The chief minister said that while militants in Jammu and Kashmir come from outside the state, those in Manipur are locals. “Identifying who is who is very difficult,” he added.

Major General VK Mishra, the commanding officer of the Indian Army unit that spearheads counterinsurgency operations in Manipur, said AFSPA is a prerequisite for the Army to maintain peace in the state. He said that complicated operations like intelligence gathering, as well as locating suspects take months and cannot be carried out without the Act.

“If we do not have AFSPA, how do we do this?” he asked. “It is not just an enabler, it is a prerequisite. AFSPA is a requirement for the Army to function.”

Over 350 serving Indian Army officers petitioned the Supreme Court on August 14, asking that the actions of soldiers in areas where AFSPA is in force be exempted from legal scrutiny. On August 31, a second batch of 400 Armymen approached the top court challenging the criminal cases filed against defence personnel in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.