Thursday, October 17, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

CCS okays troop withdrawal
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (R), Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani (C) and Defence Minister George Fernandes at the National Security Advisory Board meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday.
— PTI photo

New Delhi, October 16
Accepting the recommendations of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) which could also start the de-escalation of tension with Pakistan, the Central Government today decided to withdraw troops deployed since December last, in a phased manner, from the international border with Pakistan.

However, there will be no lowering of guard along the Line of Control (LoC). The troop deployment would be maintained at the present level, specially since there had been no drop in infiltration. The government also made it clear that there was no question of a dialogue with Pakistan until it stopped cross-border terrorism.

“There will be no lowering of vigil in Jammu and Kashmir, the Defence Minister told reporters after a 90-minute meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) presided over by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

With the elections in Jammu and Kashmir been completed successfully, the government today felt that the armed forces deployed along the international border had achieved their objective and they should now be redeployed.

The Defence Minister in a statement said: “The CCS after deliberation upon and examination of all aspects of continued deployment of our forces along the border, has decided that as the armed forces have with great distinction achieved the objective assigned to them, thus upholding all traditions of the Indian military....they now will be redeployed from positions along the international border with Pakistan without impairing their capacity to respond decisively to any emergency”.

He, however, stressed that there would be no lowering of vigil in Jammu and Kashmir. The three service chiefs would be instructed accordingly by the Defence Minister, he said.

Replying to a question, Mr Fernandes ruled out resumption of dialogue with Pakistan unless cross-border terrorism stopped completely.

Acknowledging its wholehearted appreciation of the conduct of the armed forces, the statement said the successful completion of the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir “caps their achievements.”

The CCS meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, the three services chiefs and other top officials.

The government’s decision comes after the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) earlier in the morning advised a “calibrated” withdrawal of troops from the international border with Pakistan while continuing to maintain a “state of readiness” along the Line of Control (LoC).

The NSAB comprising about 20 independent security analysts, after about a two and a half hour meeting with the Prime Minister suggested that it would not be prudent to continue with the full-scale deployment. It said the country had squeezed the maximum benefit out of the deployment and the law of diminishing returns had kicked in.

The government’s decision comes despite reported opposition from within, specially the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and some of the intelligence agencies, over the withdrawal of troops. The acceptance of the NSAB recommendation also offers first signs of a possible reduction of tension between India and Pakistan.

There was opposition from the government’s security planners as they felt that such a move would reduce pressure on Pakistan to roll back its support for guerrilla groups operating in Kashmir. They believe the troops should remain on the border till Islamabad acts on New Delhi’s terrorism-related concerns.

Reports suggested that since the government had decided to pull out troops in a phased manner it could take sometime before the troops were redeployed even along the international border.

Experts suggested that although the redeployment for the troops was a well-earned one, it could still take more than a month for the ground troops to be moved to defensive positions from the present eyeball-to-eyeball standing. Asked if redeployment meant that the troops would be withdrawn in a partial manner, he said: “Let there be no confusion. The troops will be redeployed.”

On whether India proposed to take any diplomatic initiative on mending ties with Pakistan, the Defence Minister said there was no question of discussing these issues. The Prime Minister had made the country’s position very clear in this regard, he added.

Asked if India had taken the decision due to pressure from the USA, Mr Fernandes asserted: “That has never been a factor in our taking decisions.”

The NSAB and NSC’s recommendations were evaluated and the situation on the border was discussed at great length at the CCS, Mr Fernandes said.

On when the redeployment would begin and how long it would take to complete it, he said the Army would decide on these issues.Back

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |