Saturday, January 13, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Army Chief favours J&K truce extension 
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 12 — The Chief of Army Staff, Gen S. Padmanabhan, today advocated the extension of unilateral ceasefire declared by the government in Jammu and Kashmir beyond the Republic Day deadline, saying that “its advantages were far greater than its disadvantages”.

Addressing newsmen here on the occasion of the Army Day which was also the first occasion he was interacting with the media after taking over as the Chief, General Padmanabhan said that the results of ceasefire in J&K were very positive. “If it is a good thing, and yes it is a good should continue,” he said, adding that the government’s unilateral decision had led to increased political activity in the state which could lead to peace.

Pointing out that there was burgeoning hope among the Kashmiris for a solution to the tangle in the state, he said the advantages of it far outweighed its disadvantages. Not only was there less firing along the border, but there were also less casualties and accordingly its effects were felt in the interior parts also.

In the almost hour-long interaction with the media, General Padmanabhan also rejected the theory that “no initiation of combat operations” against militants in Jammu and Kashmir may have helped them regroup and recoup. He said that it might have helped them regroup, but we know where they are, adding” We will get them when we decide to get them”.

He said the situation in the state had improved greatly, specially with the firing from across the border, along the LoC and the International Border, coming down to negligible levels. Besides, there was a definite reduction in the infiltration from across the border which, he said, was not because no attempts were being made but because the Army was intercepting them.

He said that the declaration of ceasefire was also having effects in the interiors of Jammu and Kashmir. Although some militant groups, particularly the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-a-Mohammed, were continuing with their activities, but in the process they had lost the confidence of the people. “Soon, it would be very difficult for them to operate,” he asserted.

Admitting that Pakistan was playing its role in reducing the tension along the borders by asking its troops to restrain from firing, the General discounted Islamabad’s claim of resorting to a major pullback of troops from the LoC. He said that there was no significant pullback of troops by Pakistan and all troops positioned along the front posts were still in place.

From general operational locations, some troops had been withdrawn, but they were only those who had come for either training or some other purpose, which actually meant that there was no significant pullback. By that logic, even the Indian Army has pulled back a large number of its men, he said.

General Padmanabhan also asserted that the modernisation drive in the armed forces was in process and the government would soon take a decision on the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). He added that by the year-end, an extensive review for widespread revision of the Army Act and court martial rules would be completed and proposals put forth to the government.

The General also discussed the need to go ahead to achieve a credible minimum nuclear deterrence and his vision of the Indian Army in the 21st century.

At the very outset, the Army Chief said a lot had happened since he has been in the saddle for the past three months.

“There has been less fighting and more talking...a sea change in Jammu and Kashmir with the government declaring that there will be no combat operations during Ramzan and extending it to January 26. What will happen beyond that is something we will find out”.

However, he said, in the interior there had been violence against people who had nothing to do that was inimical to militants.

General Padmanabhan’s assurance that the Army Act and rules were being revised assumes significance in the wake of recent ruling of the Delhi High Court on the Samba spying case and start of court martial proceedings against some officers for alleged dereliction of duties during the Kargil operations.


Lashkar kills 3 villagers

JAMMU, Jan 12 (UNI) — Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants shot dead three persons in an attack on two houses in a remote village at Ramban in Doda district last night.

Reports said a group of eight militants barged into the houses and killed the three. The identity of the deceased was not immediately known.


APHC agenda obvious: Bhat 
Talks with Pak Govt, Mujahideen
From Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, Jan 12 — Hurriyat Conference Chairman Abdul Gani Bhat has said the agenda of its five-member delegation to Pakistan on January 15 is “too transparent to need any clarification”. This is in spite of the “dissatisfaction” expressed by senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader and former APHC Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

The five-member team would be “waiting here for the passports to come,” Prof Bhat told TNS here today. Mr Geelani, who was admitted to the SMHS Hospital here, left for New Delhi today for treatment, a spokesman of the APHC said here this evening. He could not attend the APHC executive meeting here yesterday to select the team members. The Peoples Conference leader, Mr Abdul Gani Lone, is already in New Delhi.

“Our delegation is going on an invitation by the Government of Pakistan. It would also meet Mujahideen leaders there,” Prof Bhat told TNS. He said the visit aimed at “a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute”. The APHC Chairman held that the Kashmir issue would be discussed with the Pakistan Government and Mujahideen leaders.

For Mr Mohammad Yaseen Malik’s and his own exclusion from the team, Prof Bhat said “We have shown accommodation and farsightedness”. He had been authorised by the seven-member executive to select a team for the Pakistan visit. He said “all five have to go”.

An APHC spokesman, after the announcement of the team, stated here last evening that “we all will go by this decision. Our agenda is too clear to need repetition. We hope the Government of India will see to it that the peace process to resolve the Kashmir dispute is not put to jeopardy”.

Replying on difference of opinion among the APHC executive members, Mr Bhat said despite the “difference of opinion”, the Hurriyat Conference would “continue to remain united and work for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. That is our agenda and that is clear,” he added.

The reference was to the “dissatisfaction” expressed by senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who did not attend the meeting on health grounds.

The former APHC Chairman told TNS he was not “satisfied” with the decision of the executive council, though his party colleague, Mr Ashraf Sahrai, had attended the meeting yesterday.


‘Give passports to all’

SRINAGAR, Jan 12 (PTI) — The Hurriyat Conference today made it clear that its delegation would not go to Pakistan unless all five members were given passports.

“We are not going for a pleasure trip to Pakistan. The delegation will not go to Pakistan if the passports are not issued to all five members announced by the executive of the 23-party alliance yesterday,” Hurriyat Chairman Abdul Gani Bhat said here.

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