Army chief for extension of truce beyond R-Day
12 January 2001
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: INDIAN ARMY Chief General S. Padmanabhan on Friday came out in favour of extending the cease-fire in Jammu and Kashmir beyond Republic Day as its advantages outweighed its disadvantages. A confident General Padmanabhan said: 'The extension of cease-fire is a decision that Indian Government will have to take my advice, if I am allowed (to make one), will be yes as it is a good thing to continue with.' Interacting with the media for the first time since he assumed office three months ago, the Army Chief said, the situation in Kashmir was on the upswing. He, however, blamed foreign mercenaries operating under the banner of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) for the continuing acts of violence in the State. 'Home-grown' Kashmiri militants, he said, were sick and tired of fighting. Suggesting that there was less of fighting and a little more of talking in Kashmir, Gen Padmanabhan said, it would soon be difficult for these groups to operate in the State. The Chief maintained that the Army was still carrying out 'surgical strikes' in Kashmir on the basis of hard intelligence reports. Admitting that cross-border infiltration and firing had reduced following Pakistan's maximum restraint offer, he, however, rubbished Pakistan's claims of a pull-out from LoC and the international border in J&K. 'No frontline troops have been pulled back by Pakistan either from LoC or from the border in Jammu,' he said. Only those Pakistani troops, who were deployed in depth or were training during the winter have gone back to their barracks, he asserted. While maintaining that the Indian Army had indeed pulled back some troops, he said, Pakistan's gesture, on the other hand, was temporary and not significant enough. Replying to a query on the Army thinning down troops from the Kargil and Siachen sector, Gen Padmanabhan said: 'We have done a fair amount of pruning... the matter is being considered... the idea is to bring the deployment to a level that is justified by operations.' On the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff, the Army Chief said, there was need for a single-point military advice to the government after the Pokhran test. He said, the government was expected to take a decision on the matter soon. While maintaining that India did have a credible minimum nuclear deterrent, the Army Chief underlined the significance of the Shakti nuclear tests conducted at Pokhran on May 13. Without elaborating further, the General said, the Indian nuclear deterrent would survive the first attack.