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June 3, 1999
Fernandes denies 'safe passage' offer
Defence Minister George Fernandes, denying that he had offered 'safe passage' to Pakistan-supported infiltrators, has said the controversy was uncalled for.
''I have not offered safe passage to anybody, nobody has asked for safe passage. Therefore the whole debate on the issue is uncalled for,'' he said in an interview to All India Radio .
He also said there was absolutely no difference of opinion or any misunderstanding among him, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani about the involvement of the Pakistani government and the Inter-Services Intelligence in the Kargil developments.
''There is no question of my exonerating the ISI for anything. Number two, as far as the present hostilities are concerned I did make a point that these hostilities were conceived, planned and executed by the army. Naturally when the army gets into action mode, the whole government is involved and (Pakistan Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharief is not free from it. So there is no question of exonerating Mr Nawaz Sharief and anyone for that matter. India is today fighting aggression on the part of Pakistan. Pakistan means the whole Pakistan establishment''.
He said the armed forces had a big task ahead of them to get the situation under control.
''They are doing a very good job. They have inflicted tremendous casualties on the enemy and I believe that this operation will go on till the last of the intruder is either killed or evicted.''
Asked whether there was any failure on part of the government, the army or intelligence agencies, he said, ''These were peaceful areas not having intrusions on both sides. It was not fair to find fault with the army or intelligence or anyone else now when Pakistan-backed intruders had suddenly come in.''
He said the intrusions were in an unoccupied area in a terrain far worse than Siachen glacier. These were areas where no posts existed at all unlike Siachen.
''As our army chief has said, if we are to go in for a similar kind of posts in this area, it will cost three times, if not five times of the spending in Siachen. In Siachen, the daily cost of operations is Rs 32 million. So, obviously over the years, these positions were not held, or no posts were established in these areas.''
He was confident that Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa would be handed over to India by the Pakistani authorities. ''I do not believe that Pakistan should be putting him on TV and presenting him. He should be treated as the Geneva Convention requires him to be treated and his welfare is our concern.''
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