Saturday, February 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

No troop pullout: George
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 1
Reiterating that India will not withdraw its troops from the borders, Defence Minister George Fernandes today pointed out that there was no sign of de-escalation of troops by Pakistan and that firing from across the border in the Poonch and Rajouri sectors was still underway to help terrorists infiltrate in to India.

Defence Minister said a debate was unnecessarily being carried out about the Chief Vigilance Commission’s (CVC’s) report on defence deals.

Speaking to the media after giving away awards to the winners at this year’s Republic Day parade, the Defence Minister said: “There is no other reason (for the firing) unless they have ammunition which they want to burn. Knowing their financial situation, they are not in a position to burn ammunition”.

Although he admitted that infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir had come down a little but he added that it was so little that ‘it is not mentionable’. Any sign that infiltration had ended would be clearly evident only on the Line of Control (LoC) or elsewhere, he added.

“We are not withdrawing troops. We have told Pakistan to send the 20 wanted criminals and terrorists and end the continued cross-border terrorism. The shelling is going on from their side.”

Asked whether Pakistan’s move to set up special courts to try terrorists would satisfy India, Mr Fernandes said Islamabad would have to extradite those Indian nationals or Pakistanis who have committed crimes in India. “Why are they not doing it?” he asked.

Mr Fernandes said there was no de-escalation on the Pakistani side. India’s suspicions about the Pakistani buildup came only after some of their units, including armoured ones, stayed back after winter exercises. These units were still there.

Replying to a question, the Defence Minister said Indian troops wherever they were, whether in the North East, Kargil, Siachen or Rajasthan, were in high morale and ready to face any situation.

Reacting to reports that Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was being denied access to the report, Mr Fernandes said, “when the CVC submitted his report he said it will be treated as top secret.”

“The CVC’s reports are not distributed. So we have a debate which is not rooted in reality,” he said.

The government had told the PAC that it was not in a position to share the CVC’s report on defence deals that were struck after 1989 as it would be prejudicial to the interests of the state.

Meanwhile, Mr Fernandes also gave a strong indication that the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov would be inducted into the Indian Navy. He said the government was going to expedite talks and ‘take charge of the ship’ as soon as possible.

He said the indigenous aircraft carrier being built by India would be with the Navy ‘sooner or later’ and some countries would be associated with its construction. The process for the indigenous aircraft carrier began a year ago, he added.

Without going into details about the nuclear capability of the Navy, except saying that the sea version of Trishul had been successfully tested, Mr Fernandes said: “We have a Navy which is as powerful as can be and it needs to be further strengthened. We have one aircraft carrier and sooner or later we will have two more.”

“Negotiations for Admiral Gorshkov (a gift from Russia which needs major investments for its re-fit) are where they are. We have to expedite the talks and take charge of the ship and operationalise it,” he said.

Mr Fernandes said the US Pacific Command chief Dennis Blair’s request for Indian Navy’s help in patrolling the Malacca Straits was pending before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

He said India being part of the global coalition against terrorism was expected to provide the logistical support that was needed.Back

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