March 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India
UP asks for troops
New Delhi, March 9
With barely a week to go for the proposed “symbolic puja” at the undisputed site the Centre has been flooded with requests for troop deployment around Ayodhya and Faizabad, Defence Minister George Fernandes said today.
Speaking here at a seminar on the Indian security organised here by the Naval Foundation the Defence Minister said , “We have received a written request from the UP administration for deployment of Army in Ayodhya and Faizabad”.
He said the Centre was considering the state government’s request, and no final decision had yet been taken. A decision would be taken keeping in view the present Army mobilisation on the borders, the minister said.
“For the past few days we were getting telephonic requests from Faizabad district administration. But since last night the requests have become intense”, Mr Fernandes said. He added that today the UP Government had in fact sent a written request for deploying troops in and around the holy city.
Stating that he would not like to delve on the reasons for the state government asking for Army help, the minister said Army deployment to deal with law and order situation could be considered only after taking into account the heavy commitment of armed forces on the borders.
Opposing frequent deployment of Army to deal with the law and order situation, Mr Fernandes said the request from the UP Government came close on the heels of positioning of the Army in Gujarat to deal with communal frenzy, saying that this would affect armed forces’ commitment on the borders.
He, however, said there would be no pull back of the troops from the border with Pakistan. He disclosed that he had withstood strong pressures recently to withdraw troops from the Kutch border for their redeployment in law and order role outside Ahmedabad.
Meanwhile, India today described as rubbish Islamabad’s claim that New Delhi had brought about a cut in its troop strength deployed at its border with Pakistan and asserted that “there was no question” of acceding to General Pervez Musharraf’s request of lifting ban on the air links between the two countries.
Mr Fernandes said, “ it is rubbish...There is no truth in these claims. We are not withdrawing troops from any part of the border.”
He also dismissed General Musharraf’s offer of lifting the ban on air links between the two countries and said there was “no such move on the anvil”.
About the report that the IAF had also been stood down from its battle-ready stance, the minister said, “there is no substance in it.”
A section of the media had yesterday quoted a high-ranking Pakistani intelligence source as saying that India had withdrawn some troops along the border.
Reading a paper on “Global and Regional Strategic Environment and Assessment”, Lient Gen K.K. Hazari said the war against terrorism had thrown up new areas of cooperation among the major players — the USA, . Russia, China and India. It has opened new opportunities for the USA in Asia and force the USA to enhance its strategic focus in the continent.
Others who spoke on the occasion were Vice-Admiral P.S. Das and Prof A Narasimha Rao, Additional Director Rajaji International Institute.
Mr Fernandes today declined to comment on the recent firing on an AN-32 aircraft carrying Air Marshal V.K. Bhatia near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and said the court of inquiry underway would establish the facts.
“The matter is under court of inquiry...I am not in a position to say anything on the issue right now,” Mr Fernandes told newspersons.
“I am surprised on all kinds of news coming about the incident,” he added.
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