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June 5, 1999
India rejects Pakistani date for talks
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The government today rejected the date suggested by Pakistan for its Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz to visit India for talks to 'de-escalate tensions' in Kargil.
Pakistan had suggested Monday, June 7, for the talks. But a spokesman of the external affairs ministry said the date was 'unsuitable' for India and the government would revert to Islamabad with an alternative date.
The spokesman declined to dwell on New Delhi's reasons for not accepting the June 7 date, except to say such a high-level visit needs advance preparation.
Meanwhile, army spokesman Brigadier Mohan Bhandari denied that reporters were being prevented from visiting Kargil. While underlining that he did not have the latest information on the matter, he said, "Maybe the step was taken to ensure the safety of the journalists."
The spokesmen gave a confusing picture whether Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa, who returned from captivity in Pakistan yesterday, had been tortured by the Pakistanis. An Indian Air Force spokesman said Flt Lt Nachiketa had been subjected to intense interrogation using physical and mental measures. But there were no apparent injuries, he said, refusing to elaborate.
The spokesmen also displayed the identity cards and other documents of the three Pakistani army soldiers who were killed on Thursday.
But they did not give a clear reply when asked whether Islamabad would accept the bodies.
Reiterating the Indian armed forces's determination to evict the Pakistani intruders and push them back beyond the Line of Control, the external affairs ministry spokesman said the military operations would continue.
He said the international community had recognised it was Pakistan that had intruded into Indian territory.
The army spokesman said the Indian casualties so far were 54 killed, 209 wounded and 14 missing.
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