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June 02, 1999
Defence experts scoff at 'safe passage' option
Top defence experts today dismissed as "ridiculous" the question of negotiating safe passage for the intruders in Kargil and said Pakistan should make a firm commitment to abide by the sanctity of the Line of Control.
Observing that for the last 10 years the LoC was being violated by terrorists, Lieutenant General (retd) V R Raghavan, former director-general of military operations, said the latest outrage is an attempt by Pakistan to redefine the LoC.
This should not be tolerated and the strategic objective of the current operation has to be to get Pakistan to make a commitment not to violate the LoC again, he said.
Air Chief Marshal (retd) S K Mehra, former chief of air staff, dismissed as "absolutely ridiculous" the question of safe passage for the intruders. "What kind of a message are you sending your ground troops and airmen if you consider this," he remarked.
He said the infiltrators would be killed or they should surrender, after which the normal procedure would be followed.
The former air chief and Lt Gen Raghavan were participating in a panel discussion organised in the capital by the Indian Women's Press Corps.
Lt Gen Raghavan warned that assuming safe passage was granted, it would open up a Pandora's box as it would mean calling in observers from outside. "This will lead to further delays which is what Pakistan wants. Do we want to get into a situation where there is no end in sight?"
Major General (retd) Afsar Karim, a member of the National Security Council, went further and described the option as "politically wrong". "If we allow these people to go they will only create trouble elsewhere. They must surrender," he said.
Asked whether the armed forces had received intelligence on the intrusion, Air Chief Marshal Mehra said, "Let us face it squarely that we have been surprised by the intrusion in Kargil. After the operations are over, post-mortems will be conducted and corrective actions taken."
He described the use of air power in Operation Vijay as "absolutely correct". Despite the severe restrictions imposed by the mountainous terrain and high altitudes, the air force had been effective in pushing back the intruders, he said.
The former air chief denounced the shooting of Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, saying it went against all military ethics. This issue needs to be raised strongly at the international level, he said.
Maj Gen Karim felt Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief and the Inter-Services Intelligence must have known of the intrusions.
On the duration of the clean-up in Kargil, he said it could take some time as the operations involve search, fighting and movement strategies.
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