Thursday, March 8, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Govt favours talks with various J&K groups
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 7
Home Minister L. K. Advani today said that the Government proposed to hold talks with various groups in Jammu and Kashmir, including the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, and stressed that Pakistan must exert pressure on militants and mercenaries to stop cross-border terrorism in the state.

“We want Pakistan to exert pressure on militant groups to stop cross-border terrorism in Kashmir,” the Minister said replying to supplementaries during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha.

The minister also clarified that the Hurriyat would not be used as a mediator for talks between India and Pakistan and if any talks were to take place, these would be directly between the two countries.

To a query from Sanjay Nirupam (Shiv Sena) on whether the Government would consider ending unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir as terrorist incidents had not shown any decline, Mr Advani said the “perspective” of the Army had been taken.

He claimed that the ceasefire had reduced shelling from the Pakistan border and people in the valley were happy with the decision.

However, the Government had not asked the security forces to completely abandon their operations in Kashmir, he said, adding the operations against groups involved in violence were continuing.

“In fact, we have even asked security forces not to wait for being attacked,” Mr Advani said, adding action would be taken against those indulging in violence.

Defending extension of ceasefire till May-end, Mr Advani said this was done after consulting various political parties.

Stating international opinion on Kashmir was in favour of India, he denied that ceasefire had been declared to garner this support.

Members, cutting across party lines, said the people in Kashmir had welcomed the ceasefire.

Mr Advani said it was mainly mercenary groups that were indulging in violence in the valley after the declaration of ceasefire.

Admitting that incidents of violence in Kashmir had not come down as compared to the period before the ceasefire, Mr Advani said in January this year alone, as many as 370 incidents had taken place, leading to the death of 38 security force personnel, 74 civilians and 78 militants.

In 169 incidents of militant attacks in February, as many as 20 security force personnel, 50 civilians and 54 militants were killed, Mr Advani said.

The total number of incidents after declaration of ceasefire stood at 895 as against 914 at about the same period preceding the ceasefire.

Mr Advani said Hurriyat leaders were not talking in the same voice and those of whom had passports were free to visit Pakistan.

However, they would not be mediators for any talks between India and Pakistan, he said.

On members’ concern over press reports that certain sections in the security forces were opposing the ceasefire extension in view of continued targeting of the Army, Mr Advani said the government, while extending the ceasefire, had taken into account views of Army commanders.

However, if there was any reservation, the government would take that into consideration, he said.

Replying to the main question, Mr Advani said the government reviewed all aspects of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in its totality and had benefited from consultations it held with all political parties on February 21.

Earlier, Minister of State for Home Vidyasagar Rao said the government was ready to talk to any militant group which eschewed violence.


Attempt to blow up BSF headquarters

Srinagar, March 7
Keeping up the offensive against security forces, militants tonight made an abortive attempt to blow up a company headquarters of the BSF in downtown Srinagar by firing a rocket on the building.

The rocket hit a private building, adjacent to the company headquarters of 63 Battalion of the BSF at Nowohatta, setting it on fire which engulfed a portion of the headquarters. PTI

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