Wednesday, June 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Withdrawal of troops ruled out
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 11
In yet another response to positive signals from Pakistan which is demonstrative of India going on a de-escalation mode, the Indian defence forces’ “alert time” was today extended from the hitherto six hours to 48 hours.

However, at the same time sources in the government made it clear that there was not going to be any withdrawal of troops from the Indo-Pakistan border in the near future.

Though the sources did not indicate any time frame for the demobilisation of troops, it is understood that the forces are going to remain in a state of combat-readiness till September this year or till the time the crucial Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir are completed.

The increase in the military alert time has been consciously effected just hours ahead of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s arrival here. What it means is that whereas earlier the defence forces were on a six-hour notice to get cracking for action, now this time limit has been increased eight-fold in view of a palpable change in the ground situation.

The sources also said that though the appointment of Mr Harsh Bhasin as India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan had been cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet and the announcement would be made “soon”, it was not likely that Mr Bhasin was going to be in Islamabad within the next few days.

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