J&K truce decision likely on Jan 23
22 January 2001
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: AS THE fate of the ceasefire extension hangs in the balance, the Government is likely to decide on Tuesday on its extension beyond Republic Day amidst reservations whether it would be worthwhile in view of the continuing terrorist violence and lack of adequate response from Pakistan. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is meeting tomorrow, four days ahead of the expiry of the extended ceasefire. Giving an indication of Centre's thinking, high placed sources tonight said that 'the government is anxious to give peace to the people of Jammu and Kashmir but it has not been able to give it since Pakistan-sponsored militants have continued to sabotage the peace process by targeting innocent people and the security forces,' high placed sources said tonight. They said that non-extension of ceasefire beyond Republic Day would mean resumption of pro-active operations by security forces against militants. During the ceasefire period, the security forces have not been initiating combat operations against militants and were reacting only to violent incidents, they said. The CCS meeting is expected to be attended by Home Minister L K Advani, Defence Minister George Fernandes, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra among others. Earlier in the day, Mr Fernandes, a CCS member, voiced deep concern over stepped up violence in Jammu and Kashmir aimed at 'sabotaging the peace process' and said this and other factors would be taken into account while taking a decision on the ceasefire issue. Mr Fernandes said: 'Although such attacks (by jehadi groups) to sabotage the peace process were anticipated, what is happening is a matter of deep concern. We expected Pakistan's Chief Executive to rein in these groups, which has not been done so far.' Mr Fernandes rejected suggestions that Pakistan does not have any control over pan-Islamic groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Harkat-ul-Mujhahideen (HuM). The Minister maintained that there was evidence on record that these groups had been 'lauded, supported, armed and trained in so-called jehad by official Pakistani agencies'. He said Prime Minister Vajpayee, in his statement while announcing the extension of the ceasefire, had made specific mention of the activities of these Pakistan-based groups and urged the military ruler to take steps to control them. According to Mr Fernandes, the Hurriyat delegation's visit to Pakistan was still in limbo as the Centre had still not taken a final decision. Replying to a query on reports suggesting differences of opinion between the Prime Minister's Office and the Home Ministry over extension of the ceasefire, Mr Fernandes said: 'There could be different opinions, but when the Government takes a decision on extension, it would be the country's decision.' While the PMO and the Defence Ministry are in favour of extending the ceasefire, the Home Ministry reportedly has adopted a hard line. Conceding that the level of violence in Jammu and Kashmir has gone up after the ceasefire, Mr Fernandes said the situation on the line of control (LoC) had, however, improved with virtually no exchange of fire taking place. 'When we take a final decision on the ceasefire, we will go at length into all these points', the Minister pointed out.