Monday, January 21, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Troops to stay till Pak delivers
West can’t tell us to pull back forces: George

Indian Defence Minister George Farnandes
Indian Defence Minister George Farnandes speaking at the New York Indian Consulate on Saturday.

Washington, January 20
Defence Minister George Fernandes has virtually ruled out de-escalation on the border until Pakistan delivers on two of India’s demands that Islamabad hands over criminals and terrorists and stop cross-border terrorism.

“What good it would do when you (Pakistan) enable these terrorists from your territory even today to move into our territory,” he told Fox News Television when asked whether India could move the troops back two miles from where they are now so that Pakistan could be pressured to do the same.

Mr Fernandes said Islamabad was yet to meet the two demands New Delhi had made in the aftermath of December 13 Parliament attack — cross-border terrorism be stopped and 20 terrorists and criminals figuring in India’s list be surrendered.

“These two demands are yet to be fulfilled. Therefore, it is one thing to feel optimistic for the simple reason that diplomatic efforts are on, but it is another thing to see that General Musharraf delivers.”

Asked whether he expected a peaceful solution, he said: “All of us want a peaceful solution. That is why despite having sent our troops right upto the frontlines, we got into seeking diplomatic ways of resolving this problem.”

On General Musharraf’s promise in a recent speech to crackdown on terrorism, Mr Fernandes said the words that there would be a crackdown “do not take us anywhere when we are witnessing transborder terrorism on a daily basis. Nothing has changed since the speech in terms of delivering.”

When the interviewer noted that General Musharraf had handed over seven members of Al-Qaida to USA, he replied “if he has handed over seven members of Al-Qaida to the USA, then he should hand over the 20 others we have named.”

Asked about the danger of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, Mr Fernandes said that India’s policy was very clear: “We have said, no first strike ever. We shall never be the first to use nuclear weapons”.

Asked about the danger that continued Indo-Pakistan tension could divert Pakistani troops away from the Afghan frontier and that would enable Al-Qaida and Taliban members to move into Pakistan, Mr Fernandes said, “If that happens, we will be the ones who will have to suffer. As far as Pakistan is concerned, Pakistan has had an alliance with the Al-Qaida, and so we will be the sufferers ultimately.”

On his discussions in Washington with senior Bush administration officials, Mr Fernandes said defence ties between India and the USA had seen many ups and downs - more downs.

He had impressed, he added, that relations between Washington and New Delhi should not be dependent on any third country.

Earlier, he visited Ground Zero, the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers, and placed a wreath on the temporary memorial for the victims of the terrorist attack.

He observed a minute’s silence and signed his name just below Home Minister L.K. Advani’s who visited the site recently.

Meanwhile, the recent flurry of diplomacy has reduced the immediate risk of a major war between India and Pakistan but the standoff is still fraught with danger, according to media reports. American officials are deeply worried by the mobilisation along the tense frontier, The New York Times said.

In his swing through South Asia, Secretary of State Colin Powell has tried to calm both sides by encouraging Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to continue his crackdown on Islamic militants and by urging India to accept General Musharraf’s efforts as genuine, it said.

“The USA thinks that Musharraf is for real and has undertaken fundamental changes,” a senior American defence official said, adding that “We have been trying to persuade the Indians to take `yes’ for an answer, and that the things that are happening in Pakistan are in their own interest.”

“We also knew that war would not break out when Colin Powell was in the region and the Indian Defence Minister was visiting here,” the official said.

NEW YORK: Defence Minister George Fernandes on Sunday questioned the right of nations to ask India to pull back its troops and raise the fear of a border conflict turning into a flashpoint and ruled out the threat of a nuclear war.

Addressing the Indian community leaders here, he took objection to western nations asking India to pull back its forces on the border saying that such a step could spark a flare-up. PTIBack


India seeks infiltrators’ list
We are being pushed to the wall: Pakistan

Islamabad, January 20
As the Indo-Pakistan stand-off over New Delhi’s demand for handing over 20 terrorists continued, India has asked Pakistan to furnish a comprehensive list of militant groups who had infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir in recent times, a move resented by Islamabad which said it was being “pushed against the wall” by New Delhi.

The report in The News was published a day after Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said Islamabad would provide India its own list of wanted men for extradition.

The Pakistani daily said the Indian demand for a comprehensive list of militants who had infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir conveyed to Pakistan officials during the recent visit of US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

It said the Indian Government had made it clear to the US authorities that unless all its demands, especially concerning Kashmir, were met, they would not withdraw their forces from the border and continue to pressure Islamabad.

Apart from other conditions for troops withdrawal, New Delhi has also told the US Government to ask Pakistan to provide it details of all militants who reportedly entered into Kashmir from the Pakistani side, it said.

Pakistan reacted sharply to the new Indian demand complaining to the US authorities that Islamabad was being “pushed against the wall” by Indians with more demands irrespective of their impact on Pakistan, it said.

“Pakistan was of the view that by demanding such lists, New Delhi was actually playing a game to defame Islamabad and establish its military involvement in Kashmir,” The News said.

India and Pakistan were already locked in a see-saw diplomatic battle over the list of 20 criminals and terrorists given by India to Pakistan demanding their immediate hand over.

Pakistan initially replied saying that it will not hand over the Pakistani nationals in the list but will consider the fate of Indians figuring in the list if India handed over evidence.

Pakistan also sent contradictory signals over its response to the Indian list with President Pervez Musharraf proclaiming over the CNN news channel yesterday that “we don’t have them.”

Foreign Minister Sattar said Islamabad would study carefully the information provided by New Delhi but “as for extradition that is a complex, political and legal issue. PTIBack


Act before giving list, Omar tells Pak

New Delhi, January 20
India will keep in mind any evidence given by Pakistan on wanted men allegedly sheltered here but Islamabad would first have to act on the list given by New Delhi, Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah said today.

“Let Pakistan submit its list (of wanted men) but before that they should act on the list we have given them, the minister said.

He was reacting to Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar’s statement in Islamabad that Pakistan will forward a list of wanted men, allegedly sheltered in India, for extradition. India has given Islamabad a list of 20 wanted terrorists and criminals and asked for their extradition.

Mr Abdullah, who saw off the first batch of Haj pilgrims going directly from Srinagar to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, also said de-escalation of troops on the border was out of question until Pakistan took concrete action on the ground. UNIBack


Pak group defies ban, stages rally

Peshawar, January 20
Supporters of a banned Islamic group threw stones on policemen in a remote region of north-western Pakistan today and staged a protest rally defying a government ban on their activities, witnesses said. Several thousand people attended the rally organised by the banned Islamic group, Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e-Mohammedi (movement for the enforcement of Mohammed’s law), in Dir about 270 km from here the capital of North West Frontier Province, they said.

The group threatened to launch a protest movement if its jailed leaders and activists were not released by next Sunday. APBack



Pervez discounts possibility of war

Washington, January 20
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he did not believe tensions between his country and neighbouring India will translate into a shooting war.

“Let me assure you from a military point of view, from a diplomatic-political point of view, I don’t think there can be war — unless there’s some mad action, but that’s always a possibility,” Musharraf told Newsweek magazine in an interview for tomorrow’s issue. AFPBack

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