Tuesday, January 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak intensifying border clashes
6 bodies unclaimed: George
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 24 — Defence Minister George Fernandes today dismissed Pakistani claims that Indian troops attempted to cross the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and accused Islamabad of intensifying border clashes just to raise tension ahead of the Republic Day.

Mr Fernandes accused Pakistan of being gripped by the “Kargil syndrome” saying the recurring volatile clashes along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir indicated Islamabad had not got over the blow.

Reacting sharply to Pakistan military ruler, Gen Pervez Musharraf’s threat to “teach India a lesson” after last Saturday’s bloody clash near Akhnoor, the Defence Minister said, “It appears Pakistan is still smarting under the Kargil blow. It is time they got over this syndrome”.

Mr Fernandes said the Pakistani rulers, instead of speaking in language of threats, should make conditions for some talking. “It is pity there is no dialogue”.

The Minister, who was talking to newsmen informally after addressing an international defence seminar on “Asian Security in the 21st Century” said it was Pakistani troops who had crossed the international border on Saturday and were beaten back by our troops. About allegations by Pakistan that the Indian forces had tried to cross the LoC, the Defence Minister said, “We still have the bodies of six Pakistani soldiers who were killed on Saturday. That speaks enough of Pakistan’s desparate attempt to intrude in jammu and Kashmir.”

“It was a special charge made inside our territory. They have to ask us for these bodies thus acknowledging that it was them who had crossed the border”, he said.

Asked whether he saw a pattern in these recurring clashes, Mr Fernandes said “Ups and downs keep taking place on the border”. He declined to be drawn out when asked whether Pakistan by such actions wanted to raise the stakes in run-up to India’s 50th anniversary of Republic Day celebrations.

Pakistan had on Saturday tried to capture an Indian post in the sensitive Akhnoor sector where the LoC meets the international border. In retaliatory action by the Indian troops, 16 Pakistani soldiers, including an officer were killed. A Pakistani post opposite the Palanwala sector in Jammu Division was also destroyed.

On the reported visit of freed Harkat-ul-Ansar ideologue Maulana Masood Azhar to Kandahar from Pakistan, Mr Fernandes said, “Everyone knew of the Taliban’s involvement with Pakistan and hijackers of the Indian Airlines plane”.

“There was not only sympathy but much more than that for hijackers in Kandahar”, Mr Fernandes said, adding “at that point the Taliban had facilitated the Indian negotiating team and beyond that we have not gone to compliment the Taliban regime”.

Asked if New Delhi had informed the USA about Pakistan’s role in the recent hijacking and in sheltering hardcore Islamic terrorist groups, he said India had made it known not only to the USA but to other nations as well that terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir were not only Pakistani mercenaries but also nationals from other countries.

Earlier, inaugurating the international conference on “Asian Security in the 21st Century”, the Defence Minister said in acquiring the nuclear capability India only aimed to seek a nuclear deterrent and it was not a threat against any country. India’s nuclear strategy was defensive, “one of retaliation only”.

“We are committed not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. Our strategy, therefore, will be one of retaliation only”, Mr Fernandes declared saying this policy should reassure everyone who is not contemplating to pose a threat to India.

The Defence Minister said India’s nuclear doctrine was different from other nuclear weapon states and came “very close” to Chinese nuclear postures. “It is not surprising that the concept has been found difficult to understand by other nuclear states who have built up huge arsenals of nuclear weapons”, Mr Fernandes told the two-day conference organised by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), being attended by eminent defence experts from world over.

He said India, in fact, was facing an unprecedented level of cross-border terrorism for last one decade in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and this “viciousness of violence” had increased from Pakistan after Islamabad went nuclear and held out nuclear threats.

Mr Fernandes said early hopes of substantive strategic arms control arrangements had been belied by events like the failure of the US Senate to ratify comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) and as a result the treaty was sliding into a “coma”.

The Defence Minister drew the attention of the experts from around the world who have assembled for the conference to the threat posed by Pakistan, especially its military and the ISI. He said Pakistan had been rationalising the use of terror as a legitimate activity sanctioned by Islam.

Asserting that Afghanistan-Pakistan region had become epicentre of trans-national terrorism, supported and propagated in conjunction with narcotic trafficking from the region, Mr Fernandes called for building an international coalition against terrorism in Asia, which should become a model for other regions.

Earlier, in his presidential address, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Mr K.C. Pant, said the 21st century would be an “Asian century and the five largest economies of the world will be from this region”. He warned that the rapid economic growth in the region could be offset by “clouds of mistrust” among the nations.

Among others at the seminar were the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen V.P. Malik, top brass of the three Services, senior officials from Defence, Home and External Affairs Ministry and diplomatic corps.


Pak lodges protest with Indian envoy

ISLAMABAD, Jan 24 (PTI) — Pakistan today lodged a protest against the “attack by Indian armed forces” on a Pakistani post on January 22 saying that “it was a blatant violation of the Simla Agreement”.

Acting Indian High Commissioner Sudhir Vyas was summoned to the Foreign Office and “a strong protest was lodged against the attack in the early hours on January 22 by the Indian Armed Forces on a Pakistani post on the Pakistan’s side of the Line of Control in the Iftikharabad sub-sector in the Chamb area,” an official statement said here.

The statement said Vyas was told that it “was a blatant violation of the Simla Agreement and the continuation of such aggressive acts could result in grave consequences for which India would be responsible.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar today wrote to the un secretary General Kofi Annan drawing his attention to the “Indian attack”. Mr Sattar sought his “intercession” and suggested that Annan “consider sending a personal envoy to the region with a view to urging India to desist from provocative acts”.

A formal complaint has also been lodged with the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (unmogip), the Foreign Office statement said.


Zargar back in Kashmir

ISLAMABAD, Jan 24 (AP) — Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, one of the three militants freed last month to end the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane, has returned to Kashmir to join the insurgency, his outfit said today.

Zargar, chief of the Al Umar Mujahideen outfit, has returned to Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, the group’s Urdu statement said.

The most prominent of the three freed militants, Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani national in jail since 1994, returned to Pakistan soon after the hijacking which ended in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. At that time, Azhar said all three of the freed militants crossed into Pakistan.

The whereabouts of the third freed prisoner, Ahmed Omar Sayed Sheikh, a Pakistan-born British national, is not known.

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