LUCKNOW, June 30: (PTI) Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said Kashmir problem and the Kargil crisis were two different issues and there could be no further talks with Pakistan until it withdrew its troops from the Indian side of the Line of Control.
Referring to his talks with former Pakistan Foreign Secretary Niaz A Naik during his recent New Delhi visit, Vajpayee told reporters here "India has made it clear that there can be no talks with Pakistan until the latter withdraws its troops from Kargil".
The Prime Minister denied that he had any talks with Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif on the Kargil issue again recently.
Asked whether India wanted to settle the Kashmir issue once and for all with resolution of the Kargil crisis, he said "Kashmir and Kargil are different issues."
"We want to permanently resolve the Kashmir problem" but at the moment the emphasis is on resolving the Kargil crisis "by throwing away the intruders from our land."
Ruling out crossing of the LoC "as of now" as suggested by some defence experts, he said "such decisions are taken after giving due consideration to the opinion of experts as well as other issues."
The Prime Minister also said "Pakistani forces are retreating" and hopefully "we will be able to clear the entire area of the intruders soon."
Asked why was India hesitating to cross the LoC to choke the supply lines of the infiltrators, he said "such decisions are taken after giving due consideration to the opinions of the experts as well as other issues.
Stating that it was difficult to fix a time frame for accomplishing Operation Vijai, Vajpayee said the Indian forces were making steady progress in Kargil despite many odds.
Asked whether India was not paying a heavy price by deciding not to cross the LoC and trying to build international pressure on Pakistan, Vajpayee said the "task is difficult but we are making progress."
"It is the Pakistani Army which is fighting the battle", he said, adding "the number of Mujahideens is very small."
Vajpayee expressed satisfaction over the US reaction to the Kargil issue and rejected the contention that India was internationalising the issue. "The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, who was recently in Delhi, briefed us on his and Gen Zinni’s talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he said.
Vajpayee refused to comment, when asked whether India had sent an emissary to Pakistan as reported in a section of the press.
Asked if India was prepared to face a possible nuclear strike by Pakistan, the Prime Minister said the country was prepared to face any eventuality.
He denied that his Cabinet colleagues were speaking in different voices on the Kargil crisis.
To a question, Vajpayee said he fully agreed with Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav’s statement that the elections were not more important than the nation.
Asked whether this meant he was in favour of postponing the forthcoming polls, the Prime Minister said he hoped the elections would be held as per schedule.
He denied that the ongoing battle in the Kargil area was likely to prove costly for the nation’s economy and said "our economy is stable enough to withstand the burden of the ongoing Kargil operation."
Referring to the incident of beating of an Indian High Commission official in Islamabad, Vajpayee said India had already registered its strong protest with Pakistan and would further raise this issue in appropriate fora. (PTI)
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