Infiltration’s come down: South Block
19 June 2002
The Indian Express
New Delhi: In what could be the first signs of a roadmap being charted for eventual de-escalation on the border, Defence Minister George Fernandes and Army chief General S Padmanabhan both today spoke of a ‘‘considerable drop’’ in infiltration along the Line of Control (LoC). Their statements come soon after the Prime Minister himself, in an interview, said that there were ‘‘clearly visible changes’’ in the conditions on the border. Yesterday, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh had told The Indian Express that ‘‘when the need arises,’’ the two sides could hold ‘‘military-level’’ talks to handle the process of de-escalation. Pakistan gets going on madrasas Islamabad: Pakistan today passed a tough new law forcing its 10,000 masrasas to join a national register and declare funding sources, Information Minister Nisar Memon said. All madrasas must sign up with the newly created Madrasas Education Board within the next six months; only registered madrasas will be entitled to receive financial assistance from the government and no madrasa can receive financial assistance or donations from foreign sources. AFP While the immediate withdrawal of troops from the border has been ruled out, there are enough indications in official circles of tensions ebbing. Defence secretary Yogendra Narain, accompanied by senior ministry officials, has left for Italy to attend a week-long Defence cooperation meet. Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy is also leaving for the US on a goodwill visit, heading a high-level delegation. Speaking on the sidelines of a flag-in ceremony of the Army’s expedition to the Annapurna peak, Fernandes today said there had been ‘‘a considerable drop’’ in infiltration. ‘‘But there is no question of de-escalation until Pakistan stops trans-border terrorism. The troops will stay at the border as long as they have to.’’ But in a TV interview to Aaj Tak, Fernandes indicated that troop withdrawal could take place in the next two-three months. He denied any direct link between troop deployment and the elections in Jammu and Kashmir in October. Army chief Padmanabhan, who also confirmed there had been a drop in infiltration, too did not forsee any immediate military de-escalation. Responding to a query on the issue of joint patrolling, he said it was too early to talk about it. ‘‘Such measures are dependent on two armies building up sufficient mutual confidence. I have no confidence in my neighbour at present. Therefore, joint patrolling is a long way off.’’ Padmanabhan said terrorists could try to disrupt the J&K poll process but the army was ‘‘confident’’ of foiling all such designs.On military-to-military interaction between the DGMOs of India and Pakistan, Fernandes said the DGMOs were talking but the situation was ‘‘not ripe for talk on de-escalation.’’ He rubbished Musharraf’s claim that Islamabad’s conventional and nuclear capability had deterred india from launching an offensive. ‘‘It is the other way round. It is our nuclear deterrent that made Pakistan draw back.’’ He also brushed aside claims of Pakistan attaining nuclear parity with India. Maintaining that India should be in a position to verify whether Pakistan had stopped exporting terror, Fernandes confirmed a decision had been taken to deploy US sensors along the LoC. ‘‘Yes, we have decided to deploy ground sensors but no formal talk on the induction has taken place yet.’’ His remark on ground monitoring sensors assumes significance because Defence secretary Narain, during his recent visit to the US, had held preliminary talks on sensor induction. He had confirmed that during the Indo-US joint defence policy group meeting, the US had offered to supply the sensors to India.