June 1999 News

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Gen Malik Warns Troops May cross LoC in Kargil

23 June 1999
PTI

NEW DELHI: In a stern warning to Pakistan, Army Chief Gen V P Malik today asserted that Government would consider the option of crossing the Line of Control (LoC) to effectively end the incursions in Kargil if supreme national interest so warranted.

Stating there were constraints imposed by the mandate we have got, Malik told his first press briefing here since Operation Vijay in Kargil : I believe if it becomes necessary to cross the LoC in supreme national interests, the matter will be taken up in the Cabinet. He, however, did not elaborate on the issue of constraints.

Maintaining that the situation in Kargil is now clear, Malik said it is the Pakistani army itself which has infiltrated across the LoC with help and facade of militants with a view to changing the delineated LoC alignment. It would be responded to accordingly, he added.

Asked whether Kargil could be likened to Siachen where troops have been maintained in icy heights for decades, Malik said there is need for us to look beyond Kargil. He, however, declined to elaborate.

The Army Chief said if war is thrust on us, we shall fight with whatever we have.

Asked whether there was a possibility of Indian armed forces crossing the LoC to end the intrusion, Malik said it is the Cabinet decision which we are following .... Cabinet meetings take place very often and we are in attendance. We review the situation all the time.

Stating that no time-frame could be fixed for vacating the incursions, Malik said there are constraints with the mandate we have got.

He said the Indian forces had been able to foil Pakistanís overall military design to sever the road link between Zojila and Leh and weaken our defences in Kargil, Batalik and Turtuk sectors and asserted we are now fully balanced on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.

Malik said the Pakistan Armyís advice to their Foreign Minister on the LoC and the statements made by political and military leaders of Pakistan that LoC was only delineated and not demarcated, had been taken note of.

These contentions are full of mischief, wrong, dangerous and unacceptable, he said observing if it was so, then India and Pakistan should have been in a state of war all across the 740 kilometres of LoC and would remain so in future.

I have given you the military angle. You can appreciate its political and other implications, he said.

The Army along with Air Force and Navy was determined to complete this mission assigned to it by the Government and the nation. I have already conveyed our resolve to all ranks of the Army.

The Army Chief said the operations in Drass, Kargil and Batalik sector were progressing satisfactorily. Slow, on account of terrain and climatic conditions, but steady.

Meanwhile, the number of Pakistan Army regulars killed in Kargil operations has risen to 340 while the Indian Army lost 165 men, with 323 sustaining injuries.

We have no doubt that the present operation was conceived and executed by the Pakistani Army regulars, Malik said noting that at the military level, the involvement of Pakistani Army regulars has not been denied by Pakistan.

This is an armed intrusion into our territory. We are treating it and will treat it as such.

Maintaining that the Pakistani military build-up could not be termed as very aggressive, he asserted that Army, Navy and Air Force were taking adequate precautions and were prepared for any contingency.

The armed forces wanted to clear the intrusions along the 120-km stretch of the LoC as early as possible, he said.

On Pakistan Army Chiefís remark that chances of peace were fading, Malik said no comments. We have a mandate and we have to get on with it.

To a question on intelligence failure, Malik said he would not like to be drawn into such a debate at this juncture

Intelligence is a big word. We need to improve our surveillance and we are conscious of our limitations. Physical surveillance all along the LoC is not possible. So we have to make use of more technical equipment, he said, adding intelligence encompasses lots of organisations.

Asked how difficult it was to accomplish the task of evicting intruders without crossing the LoC, he said "there are constraints with the mandate we have. I would not like to say anything more."

The General said intruders were getting full artillery and logistic support from across the LoC, when asked if there was military build-up across the border and whether the Pakistan armyís designs were aggressive. "At the moment I would not call the posture across the LoC as very aggressive."

Whether the operations would be completed before September-October or before it snows he said "we will like to do it as early as possible. It has to be decided at the level of the Cabinet. I alone canít decide."

Asked if there was a threat to Indiaís nuclear installations he said "the armed forces are taking adequate precaution. We are prepared for any contingency."

The army also released the details of the LoC and its delineation by India and Pakistan. "With marked maps, a military man can make an error of a few hundred metres on the ground. But an error of eight-nine km is unimaginable," Gen Malik said.(Agencies)

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