Fire has ceased, George says he is ''satisfied''
12 December 2000
New Delhi: Union Defence Minister George Fernandes said here on Tuesday that he was ''more than satisfied'' with the ongoing ceasefire during the month of Ramzan in Kashmir. He also said the guns ''were silent'' on the Line of Control(LoC) since the unilateral ceasefire was announced by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee last month. Giving his assessment to The Pioneer for the first time since the ceasefire was announced, the Defence Minister said the entire sector starting from the northern glacier in Siachen down to north of Akhnoor in Jammu and Kashmir was ''silent.'' ''You see, where the LoC used to see more than 50,000 to 80,000 rounds of artillery and medium machine gun fire every day, only a few hundred rounds are fired now,'' the Defence Minister said. Sounding very optimistic with the outcome of the ceasefire so far, Mr. Fernandes said that he was ''more than satisfied'' with the ceasefire. Elaborating further, the Defence Minister said the last one week saw the 15 Corps, deployed in the strife torn State of Jammu and Kashmir, not firing ''even a single shot.'' Mr. Fernandes said that till date, in two or three places on a couple of occasions the security forces had to return fire when the militants tried to sneak into India from across the LoC. The Indian security forces, otherwise, exercised utmost restraint in the State, the Defence Minister said. Commenting on the activities of the militant organisations, the Defence Minister said barring one or two such organisations, the other ''tanzeems'' were silent since the ceasefire during Ramzan began on November 28. The Chief of Army Staff General S Padmanabhan, meanwhile, said here on Tuesday that the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir was holding ''remarkably well'' with firing from LoC coming down to negligible levels and the interiors also not witnessing any major clashes. ''The ceasefire is holding well with some odd hiccups here and there like some beastly acts of throwing grenades'', he told reporters, adding that violations were confined to foreign mercenary groups, who were against the ceasefire. General Padmanabhan said that due to heightened vigil by forces, infiltration attempts from the PoK had also come down. ''Recently we had two major contacts and both of them were repulsed with heavy casualties''. On the step-up in attacks by suicide squads, he said ''if somebody want''s to commit suicide, he will do so ceasefire or no ceasefire'' and added that ''security forces were on full alert against such tactics''. Asked whether there was a delay in acquisition of unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles (UAVs), the Army Chief said ''we already have some operational.'' Speaking to newsmen after flagging off the Army contingent in the 20th Indian Antartica expedition, the Army Chief said that the Army had asked for more such equipment and they would be inducted soon. Reacting to reports that Pakistan was using the UAVs to spot gaps in Indian defences for pushing in foreign mercenaries, the Army Chief said ''we have been keeping track of Pakistani UAVs. We know their make and marks''. General Padmanabhan also announced that the Army had done away with shortened courses for officers introduced by his predecessor General V.P.Malik to overcome serious shortage of officers.