Wednesday, January 24, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Centre extends J&K ceasefire 
Rein in LeT, Islamabad told

From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 23 — The Vajpayee government today extended the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir by another month thereby affording a fresh opportunity to Pakistan to end militancy and rein in the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad militant organisations.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) which met here in the forenoon to review the stoppage of combat operations against militants operating in J and K regretted that “Pakistan has not recognised the demand of time for peace and continues to promote, encourage and abet cross border terrorism. This must cease and the activities of organisations like LeT and JeM curbed and controlled by Pakistan,” a statement issued by the CCS maintained.

Significantly, the BJP-led NDA government noted that the people of J and K welcomed the move and felt that violence must be ended by peace. “The present phase of peace in J and K is being, in that hope, extended by another month,” the statement observed.

The CCS meeting chaired by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee reviewed the entire security scenario in J and K, particularly the acts of cross border terrorism and the crimes against civilian population. It recalled that the “initiative for peace taken by the Prime Minister on November 23 on the eve of the holy month of Ramzan was despite heinous acts of terrorism and

violence against innocent men, women and children, extended by a month thereafter to coincide with the Republic Day 2001.”

In an interface with mediapersons after the meeting of the CCS, Union External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh stressed that India wanted to create conducive conditions for the success of the dialogue process. The decision to extend the ceasefire was unanimous.

“Talks and guns cannot go together,” the minister said. “Peace is essential for giving a push to dialogue.”

Despite some discordant voices in the government and that of J and K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah about the efficacy of the peace initiative in J and K, the government had decided to continue the ceasefire reflecting its multi-strand approach. Responding to a specific query, Mr Jaswant Singh said that Dr Abdullah had been consulted about extending the ceasefire.

It was apparent that if the government had called off the ceasefire, it would have come as a dampener to the people of J and K who wanted peace and calm to return to their hearth and homes. Ending the peace initiative at this juncture would have only amounted to caving in to the nefarious designs of the powerful military establishment in Pakistan and the militants aided and abetted by them.

Notwithstanding the threats to Mr Vajpayee, Union Home Minister L.K. Advani and the stepped up violence against the innocents in J and K, the leadership firmly believed that going back on the ceasefire would tantamount to not giving the peace process a proper chance. That would have also made the Kashmiris sit up and ponder if the Vajpayee government was really serious out the peace initiative. Another aspect which assumed significance was the assurance given by Saudi Arabia to work in tandem with India in fighting the menace of international terrorism.

Considering the protracted Kashmir tangle, Mr Vajpayee had been keen to get the dialogue on course irrespective of the stumbling blocks and the imponderables that are bound to arise in any such initiative. Only the other day the Prime Minister affirmed that the dialogue process will get under way soon.

Then, the Prime Minister’s reference to Kashmiriyat and insaniyat had found an echo in the sensitive border state. Therefore, it was inevitable that the stoppage of combat operations against the militants introduced in November in J and K had to be extended beyond January 26.

Most importantly, pre-eminence was being accorded to getting the talks with the representatives of the people in J and K started as the first stage in pursuit of the peace process.

Strategists in the Vajpayee government had been encouraged by the peoples’ response to the Panchayat elections in J and K. The turnout even in frontier areas had been high despite threats by the militant outfits. This was seen here as yet another manifestation of the people’s desire for ending the gun culture of foreign mercenaries and so called ‘jehadis’.

The CCS meeting was attended by Mr Advani, Union Defence Minister George Fernandes, Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary and National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra, Union Home Secretary Kamal Pande, Chief of Army Staff Gen S. Padmanabhan, and the chiefs of intelligence agencies.


Ceasefire won’t work, says Congress
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 23 — In a critical reaction to the extension of ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir by the NDA government, the Congress today said such piecemeal arrangements would not work.

“The way the government has gone about the whole thing looked like a patch-up approach, and this piecemeal arrangement would not work and what was needed was a long-term policy,” Congress General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad told mediapersons here tonight.

He said: “The party has been supporting the ceasefire for the past two months, but unfortunately, it has failed.”

To a specific query whether the Congress welcomed the extension, he said the party would be able to react in detail tomorrow after going into various aspects considered by the government before taking the decision.



Hizb rejects decision

ISLAMABAD, Jan 23 (DPA) — The Hizbul Mujahideen today rejected the extension of ceasefire by the Indian Government, saying the ceasefire “never existed on the ground”.

“Which ceasefire? It does not exist on the ground. With custodial killings and siege-and-search operations on the rise, the situation is worse today than when the ceasefire was first announced,” spokesman for the group Saleem Hashmi said.


Pak: truce sans talks meaningless

ISLAMABAD, Jan 23 (PTI) — Pakistan said today the extension of the two-month long ceasefire by the Indian Government in Kashmir by another month would be meaningful only if it leads to the commencement of a purposeful dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

A Foreign Office statement here said the decision, it must be hoped, would be implemented on the ground, unlike the past two months during which Indian forces violated the declared suspension of combat operations and continued a campaign of terror against the Kashmiri freedom struggle.

Stating that peace could be established only if the Kashmir problem was settled in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people, it said India should respond positively to Pakistan’s proposal of December 2, 2000, for the commencement of a peace process by resuming the dialogue with Islamabad along with the participation of the Kashmiri representatives.

The Indian Government should enable the Hurriyat Conference delegation to visit Pakistan without delay, it said.

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