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August 12, 1999
Army prepares for fresh offensive in Kargil
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Top defence ministry officials today confirmed that the armed forces are preparing to launch a determined assault on Pakistani troops in the Kargil sector of Jammu & Kashmir, where they are still holding some heights.
The Indian Army is keen to dislodge the Pakistanis who are occupying points of vantage on the Line of Control in the Mushkoh Valley and Batalik sub-sectors. These troops have begun claiming that these points belong to them and they will not vacate.
The officials said all efforts would be made to dislodge the remaining intruders. And the Indian Air Force will not pull any punches this time. The officials said that during the Kargil conflict, the IAF had only used about 15 per cent of its capabilities.
Significantly, the Congress today alleged that Pakistani troops are still holding out on some of the higher reaches in the Kargil sector. Spokesman Kapil Sibal told reporters that according to Military Intelligence, about 30 Pakistani intruders are still occupying Point 5353 and Point 5060 in Mushkoh Valley and Point 5468 in Batalik.
According to Sibal, Point 5468 is significant because it overlooks the Drass and Matayan areas of the Leh-Srinagar highway. He said mules loaded with food and military supplies are being sent to the intruders.
Sibal, however, agreed that Indian troop movements in the areas are difficult and dangerous because the withdrawing Pakistanis have mined them.
He demanded that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government tell the nation the truth about the situation in Kargil.
Referring to the recent terrorist attacks in the Kashmir valley, he ridiculed the government's 'safe passage' to the Kargil intruders. This had emboldened Pakistan to strike in other areas such as the North-East, which is in the grip of ISI terror, he said.
Sibal made a dig at Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani for his statement made last year about sending troops across the border in "hot pursuit of terrorists". "The hot pursuit has been dropped like a hot potato," he said.
Sibal also charged that the home minister's initial claim of bringing out a white paper on the Inter-Services Intelligence agency's terrorist activities had only resulted in "a whitewash on Kargil". The white paper had been "sacrificed at the altar of the Lahore spirit", he said, and demanded that the government declare the ISI a terrorist organisation.
He also launched a broadside at Defence Minister George Fernandes for having given the ISI a clean chit in the early days of the Kargil crisis.
He pointed out that in its election manifesto, the Bharatiya Janata Party had talked of a "detailed study of security matters", but now it appears that "national security in this government's hand is not safe".
Natwar Singh, chairman of the Congress foreign cell, said Pakistan should not misunderstand India's restraint and should know that the country is united on the issue of its integrity and national security, which will be protected at all costs, "regardless of which government is at the Centre".
He said the Congress supported the shooting down of the Pakistani maritime reconnaissance aircraft that had strayed into Indian airspace. "Those Pakistani elements who conspire against India should know that their conspiracy will not succeed and they will be tackled determinedly," Singh added.
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