Tuesday, January 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Act fast, don’t test our patience, says George
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 14
Defence Minister George Fernandes today ruled out any de-escalation of military build-up along the India-Pakistan border saying that tension can be defused only when cross-border terrorism is effectively stopped by Islamabad.

* No de-escalation of troop build-up on border

* India will give time to Pakistan, but won’t wait indefinitely

* Nuclear weapons only a deterrent

* No question of third-party mediation.

Addressing members of the Foreign Correspondents Club here, Mr Fernandes said, “India wants permanent end to the cross-border terrorism as it has caused death and destruction in Kashmir.”

Mr Fernandes, who will be leaving for the USA to meet officials there tomorrow, said the Indian Government was ready to resolve all issues with Pakistan through a dialogue.

Reacting to General Musharraf’s televised address to Pakistan, Mr Fernandes said he would like to believe that the Pakistan President meant to do what he had said in his address. “If he means to do it, I am sure he has to do it fast, because the troops from both sides are on the frontlines”

Replying to questions on a time-frame for General Musharraf to act on his commitments, he said “We believe one has to give some time. There will be no indefinite wait on our side. But to expect things to happen by last evening is not a fair expectation”.

To a question on India using nuclear weapons, Mr Fernandes said, “No sensible person can even think of using nuclear weapons. We look at nuclear weapons as a deterrent and nothing beyond”.

Referring to daily exchange of fire on the borders, particularly during the past few days, he said the two countries could make a start by putting an end to border flare-ups.

He said Pakistani forces continued to shell Kargil town, Dras and the Mushkoh valley in Jammu and Kashmir. “This is being done to allow militants to cross over to the Indian side”, he added.

Welcoming General Musharraf’s pledge to crack down on terrorist groups operating from Pakistani soil, Mr Fernandes said, “His words would have to be matched by deeds”. New Delhi had troops on the border and other resources to monitor the fallout of Pakistan President’s action on the ground, he added.

To questions on reports of Chinese military and economic package for Pakistan even as troops of the two countries were in almost eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, the minister brushed aside suggestions that New Delhi would have to fight a war on two fronts declaring that Sino-Indian relations were “very correct and friendly”.

“We are on threshold of giving new impetus to these relations during the ongoing visit of Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji”, he said adding that for more than past four years, the long borders between the countries had been incident-free.

On his forthcoming visit to the USA and Pakistan’s proposal to involve Washington in peace efforts between the two countries, Mr Fernandes said there was no question of India accepting the US playing the role of a mediator or facilitator.

“We have never asked for mediation by any country for resolution of our disputes with Pakistan...so the question of US mediation does not arise. The role of mediator also comes into picture only if two groups are willing to take help”, he added.

Stating that he was not going to Washington with a weapons shopping list, he said, “We have given a long list to the USA sometime back during the visit of Defence Secretary Rumsfeld. Items have been identified and we hope to speed this up”.

He refused to be drawn into a discussion on the issue of appointment of the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) saying his ministry was seized of the matter and it was an ongoing exercise yet to be completed.

Terming the recent fire in an Army ammunition convoy near Bikaner as a serious accident, the minister said he would not like to comment on it till the Army Court of Inquiry completed its probe into the matter.

Most of the time during his hour-long media interaction, Mr Fernandes was focussed on heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.

He made it clear that New Delhi wanted to settle all outstanding disputes with Islamabad through peaceful negotiations, at the same time warning that if these failed, “we can explore other options”.


Pakistan to pull back troops only if India does

Indian soldiers take aim from inside a bunker in the Akhnoor sector on the Line of Control on Monday. 
— Reuters photo

Islamabad, January 14
Pakistan today refused to pull back its troops from the Indo-Pak border before India does it to defuse the tension and said it had expected a “warmer” response rather than the cautious welcome it gave to President Pervez Musharraf’s announcements on curbing terrorism.

“Pakistan is constrained to keep what it requires for its defence close to the border,” defence spokesman Major-Gen Rashid Qureshi told reporters shortly after Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes ruled out any de-escalation on the border till cross-border terrorism is effectively stopped by Islamabad.

“We expect the Indian forces to move back to their peacetime positions, and thereby reduce tension,” General Qureshi said. PTI

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