February 2001 News

Army casts shadow on J-K truce

19 February 2001
The Indian Express

New Delhi: The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is likely to meet on Wednesday to take a decision on the extension of ceasefire by another month despite reservations expressed by the Army and intelligence agencies. 'The CCS may extend the ceasefire by another month and also put some rider,' a senior Cabinet Minister said. The 'rider' comes in the wake of intelligence agencies and the Army expressing reservations on certain issues pertaining to the extension. The CCS was to take place on Sunday but because of extended discussions at the meeting of the National Committee on Disaster Management, headed by the Prime Minister, the meeting was cancelled late in the night. Highly placed sources said the rider could be in the form of a pre-condition for having discussions with separatist groups or an appeal to step up the pace of the peace process. The sources said the Army expressed reservations in view of the fact the number of foreign mercenaries in the Valley has increased sharply and they are moving about freely. Because of the continuing ceasefire, the Army was finding it difficult to take action against these mercenaries, who have stepped up their activities. While Prime Minister Vajpayee himself admitted that the ceasefire has not brought the desired results, it is likely that the truce period will be extended to pursue the process initiated by Vajpayee on the eve of Ramzan in November. President K R Narayanan in his address to Parliament this morning said the international community has given overwhelming support to the ceasefire because it sees in it yet another demonstration of India's sincere commitment to a peaceful and permanent solution to the Kashmir issue. Narayanan also attacked Pakistan for 'acts of barbarism' in Jammu and Kashmir in the garb of jehad (holy war) and asserted that the country's strategic response capability would be further strengthened to meet any eventuality. 'It is a matter of deep distress and concern to all of us that Pakistan has not reciprocated India's sincerity. There has been no let-up in, much less an end to, cross-border terrorism and vicious anti-India propaganda, originating from Pakistani soil,' he told a joint session of Parliament on the opening day of the Budget Session. Noting that many innocent lives continue to be lost everyday to acts of barbarism by those who cloak them in the garb of jehad (holy war), Narayanan said 'Pakistan bears the responsibility for these acts against humanity, which are a travesty of religion'. Pakistan's 'protestations about its eagerness to resume talks with India will not carry conviction so long as it allows the terrorists' guns and bombs to do the talking,' he said. In his 23-page address outlining the Government's policy for the coming year, Narayanan warned that economic reforms could derail without judicial, administrative, educational and labour reforms for achieving nine per cent growth. The extension of the ceasefire could pave the way for the initiation of a dialogue with the Hurriyat Conference and the militant groups, the sources said. Although Pakistan has responded positively to the ceasefire, India has made it amply clear that talks with Islamabad can only be held if a conducive atmosphere is created and it stops all support to the militant groups. The Hurriyat Conference and other seperatist groups have been in touch with several prominent personalities who are actively involved in Track II diplomacy. In fact, prominent Kashmiri leader Shabir Shah met R K Mishra, a go-between the government and separatists, and discussed with him various proposals regarding resumption of a dialogue besides the political scenario in the Valley. Several Kashmiri leaders including former Union Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh have strongly advocated that the ceasefire should be backed by concrete steps by the Centre for opening direct channels of communication with various groups to end violence and usher an era of peace in the Valley.


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