Monday, May 27, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Fulfil pledge, PM tells Pervez
Lays foundation stone for vital Rohtang tunnel
S. P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Manali, May 26
The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today asked Gen Pervez Musharraf to fulfil his commitment of ending cross-border terrorism as a step towards easing tension on the Indo-Pakistan border.

Mr Vajpayee was addressing a largely attended public meeting, near here, after laying the foundation stone for the Rs 1000-crore strategic tunnel under the 13,050 ft high Rohtang Pass.

The Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, the Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, and the Union Consumers Affairs Minister, Mr Shanta Kumar, were among those present on the occasion.

Mr Vajpayee said world pressure was being built on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism which was claiming innocent lives here.

He said when there was a worldwide fight against terrorism and the defence forces of the USA had entered Afghanistan to quell terrorism, how long can we wait and tolerate the menace in our country.”

The Prime Minister asserted that India wanted to prevent bloodshed but would have no option but to successfully fight the nearly 12-year-long proxy war. He said the morale of the armed forces was high and they were determined to teach a lesson to the enemy as had been done in previous wars and conflicts. He hoped that the efforts of the world community to pressure Pakistan would yield positive results.

He said the world opinion was against the tactics of Pakistan, but the world community should realise that there was a limit to our patience.

Mr Vajpayee said India should have given a reply to Pakistan instantly when terrorists attacked Parliament, but following worldwide condemnation of the incident India was assured that such things would not happen again. However, Pakistan had not relented and in the latest incident terrorists killed bus passengers and then attacked the Army cantonment at Kaluchak near Jammu where innocent women and children were massacred.

He said having tasted defeat immediately after Partition in its efforts to capture Kashmir, Pakistan has been vainly trying, some way or the other, to grab Kashmir by backing cross-border terrorism. However, it would never succeed in its machinations, as the country was united and all political parties had supported the government in fighting terrorism. Pakistani forces had to retreat from the advantageous high pickets in Kargil when a determined Indian Army retaliated and foiled their effort to infiltrate into our soil.

The Prime Minister said development and defence of the country should go side by side. The tunnel under the Rohtang Pass would not only bring prosperity to the tribal area of Lahaul, but was also strategic from the defence point of view.

Mr George Fernandes said construction of the tunnel was a difficult job, but men of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) would speedily construct the 8.9-km long tunnel which would cost over Rs 1,000 crore. He said the country was facing challenges from across the border and complimented the soldiers of Himachal Pradesh who laid down their lives while fighting the enemy.

Mr Fernandes said a final decision about reverting the famous Annandale ground in Shimla to the Himachal Pradesh Government for constructing the country’s highest cricket field would be taken soon.

Mr Dhumal said the previous governments had only been talking of constructing the tunnel, but the proposal had taken shape only because of the intervention of Mr Vajpayee.

He said the Manali-Leh road had come handy for carrying supplies of arms and ammunition to Kargil during the recent conflict with Pakistan. The tunnel would further strengthen the defence of the country and provide access to the Lahaul valley throughout the year.

Mr Dhumal sought intervention of the Centre in solving the dispute over the arrears which the BBMB had to pay to Himachal Pradesh. He also demanded that a separate regiment of the Army be established for Himachal Pradesh or the entire Himalayan region.

Mr Shanta Kumar said India had crossed the target of exporting 100 lakh tonnes of foodgrains and earned a foreign exchange of over Rs 5000 crore. Rice had been exported to 25 countries and wheat to 20 countries.

He demanded that the issue of granting Scheduled Tribe status to Gujjars and Gaddis of the new merged areas of the state should be expedited by the Centre as such status had been denied to these people for the past 50 years. Mr Maheshwar Singh, BJP MP from the Mandi constituency, demanded that a tunnel should be constructed in the Sach Pass to directly link Pangi with Chamba.


George briefs PM
Tribune News Service

Manali, May 26
The Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, and the Security Adviser, Mr Brajesh Mishra, today briefed the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, about the situation on the Indo-Pakistan border here today.

Sources said Mr Fernandes briefed Mr Vajpayee about the preparedness of the defence forces to meet any challenge from across the border. Mr Mishra, who had participated in a meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission yesterday and also visited the Kalpakam Atomic Project near Chennai, had a long meeting with the Prime Minister.

Later, in the evening Mr Vajpayee hosted a dinner for the members of the Council of Ministers of Himachal Pradesh.


Year-round road link to Ladakh soon
Tribune News Service

Manali, May 26
The Rohtang tunnel, the foundation stone of which was laid today by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, will provide a year-round road link with the frontier region of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir to the defence forces and also keep the Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh open even during winter.

The Director-General of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), Lt-Gen P. Suri, said this would be the highest tunnel in the world at a height of 3,000 metres and would be equipped with many modern gadgets.

With a length of 8.9 km, this would be the longest tunnel in the country. It was expected to be completed in seven to eight years, he said.

To provide a year-round access to the Ladakh region, a 292 km-long road is being constructed from Darcha to bypass the three other high passes of Baralacha la, Lachung la and Tanglang la, which are 16,600 to 17,582 ft high.

The bypass taking off from Darcha will pass through Padam and Nimu before touching Leh.

General Suri said the tunnel would save a distance of 46 km between Manali and Keylong which is the district headquarters of the tribal area of Lahaul-Spiti.

He said it would be a single tube tunnel with double lane traffic. A sophisticated ventilation system would be provided as the terrain does not permit a natural ventilation channel.

He said closed circuit televisions would also be installed in the tunnel, along with telephones, besides avalanche-control measures.

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