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May 28, 1999
Losses within acceptable limits, service chiefs tell PM
George Iype in New Delhi
Even as the combined operation by the armed forces to flush out Pakistan-backed mercenaries in the Kargil sector continued for the third day, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called a meeting of the Union Cabinet and the apex Cabinet Committee on Security on Friday to review the situation on the ground.
Support for the government's offensive also came from the main opposition party, the Congress. A delegation of Congress leaders led by Dr Manmohan Singh called on President K R Narayanan and expressed the party's support for the government's action in evicting insurgents from key sectors on the Line of Control.
The CCS meeting, chaired by the prime minister, was also briefed by Defence Minister George Fernandes about the breakthroughs that the army and air force had achieved in the Kargil sector.
The three service chiefs and top intelligence officers, apart from Home Minister L K Advani, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Brajesh Mishra, also attended the CCS meeting.
Officials said the CCS will now meet every day to review the progress in Kargil. On Friday, the army and air force chiefs specifically briefed the prime minister about the loss of two fighter planes and one helicopter by the Indian Air Force and the new strategy and tactics adopted by them in the continuing operation.
The prime minister was told by the service chiefs that "the loss was within the acceptable limits" in such operations. They also assured him that there was no need for "panic or worry" about the operation.
The meeting, which lasted for more than one hour, took stock of the latest situation and decided to continue with Operation Vijay till the intruders are evicted.
Sources said while the military has not set any time-frame to flush out the mercenaries, the prime minister urged the service chiefs to complete the air and ground strikes as early as possible.
Soon after the meeting, Fernandes accused the Pakistani army of aiding and abetting infiltration.
"The Pakistan army has hatched a conspiracy to push insurgents into Kashmir," he said, stating that the Nawaz Sharief government does not have a major role to play in the whole conflict.
On Friday too, the government continued to brief foreign diplomats stationed in New Delhi that the operation is entirely within the Indian side of the Line of Control. The Ministry of External Affairs is engrossed in the task to ensure that Operation Vijay should not lead to any unexpected diplomatic fallout.
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