Monday, July 8, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Further de-escalation put on hold
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 7
India’s categoric refusal to take anymore de-escalatory measures following Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s somersault on ending the cross-border infiltration has again put the USA and the United Kingdom on the edge, forcing the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to rush back to New Delhi later this month.

India, which had planned a series of de-escalatory measures after assurance from Jack Straw and the US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage that Pakistan would put a complete end to the cross-border infiltration earlier last month, has now put on hold all further measures, including the withdrawal of troops to a defensive mode and even providing Pakistani aircrafts with the landing rights here.

Sources disclosed that after having visited the sub-continent only recently, there was no official plan for the British Foreign Secretary to come back within this month. As per official engagements of the Ministry of External Affairs only the British Defence Secretary Geoffrey Hoon and British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s close aide David Manning were supposed to visit India this month.

However, with the upping of ante by Pakistan and the subsequent categoric refusal by India to take any more steps to ease the tension on the borders has forced Jack Straw to be back here at the earliest possible date.

The decision to put on hold all the further de-escalatory measures was taken late in June by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and it was accordingly conveyed to both the USA and the UK. In fact the British Foreign Secretary had apparently rung up his counterpart in India after Musharraf’s interview to Newsweek late in June urging India to maintain calm.

However, India is said to have conveyed that from now it would not rely on any third party assurances and would take further measures only after proof on ground. India also conveyed this to the British Defence Secretary Geoffrey Hoon during his recent visit pointing out that after a month’s lull the ISI-backed cross-border infiltration was back in full swing.

New Delhi had earlier initiated some de-escalatory measures after the USA conveyed to India the Pakistani dictator’s promise to clamp down on terrorists. Among the steps initiated were the lifting of ban on Pakistani aircraft flying over the Indian airspace, the withdrawal of battleships and military relaxation in terms of granting leave to soldiers.

India was also planning to offer landing permission to Pakistan International Airlines, re-deploy the strike corps to defensive mode and withdrawing the air force jets from the forward bases along the Indo-Pak border.

Besides putting the forces in Jammu and Kashmir in the defensive mode, India had also planned to slowly withdraw the troops from the other two sectors—Punjab and Rajasthan.

However now India has said that the troops will stay on in all the sectors till at least October and there would be no scaling down of the war-preparedness.

India is expected to put forward its present stand during the Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting with the USA in Washington later this week also. 

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