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May 29, 1999
No halting air-strikes, PM tells Sharief
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told an all-party meeting in New Delhi today that he had made it clear to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief that India cannot stop military action against the Pak-backed intruders in the Kargil sector and that there was no question of shifting the Line of Control.
This, he said, was conveyed to the Pakistani prime minister during their telephonic talk yesterday. Sharief had wanted India to stop military action against the intruders while he was sending his Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz to New Delhi for talks.
The meeting unanimously extended its support to the action being taken by the Indian armed forces in the Kargil sector to flush out Pakistan-backed intruders and assured to stand behind the government as one man in dealing with the situation.
As many as 32 representatives from all major political parties attended today's meeting convened by Prime Minister Vajpayee. They were given an audio-visual presentation by director general of Military Operations Lt Gen M C Vij and additional chief of air staff (Ops) air vice marshal S K Mallik about the situation in detail. A full picture as of date was made available to them, Defence Minister George Fernandes told newsmen later.
Fernandes said the prime minister was awaiting the reply from his Pakistani counterpart who had promised to get back to him.
Replying to questions, the defence minister denied having given a ''clean chit'' to Pakistan regarding its involvement in Kargil. ''All that I had said was that the Pakistani army has instigated this action. Their prime minister and ISI have no hand in this action,'' he explained. Reports emanating from Britain and the US indicate that only the Pakistani army was involved in this operation in Kargil.
He said the territory under question in Kargil sector was considered as ''unoccupied land even though the Line of Control is well demarcated in maps. There was an unwritten understanding that both sides will stay away from the border as keeping troops round the year there was not a good proposition due to high costs involved'', he pointed out.
Replying to a question, the defence minister said it would be difficult to specify a time-frame to flush out the intruders. He did not agree that there was intelligence failure in detecting the massive intrusion from across the LoC. ''There is no mutual recrimination among intelligence units be it civilian or the armed forces. All intelligence units are working in unison,'' he added.
Asked if the bunkers within the Indian side of LoC were constructed by the Pakistanis while Vajpayee was on his goodwill mission to Lahore, Fernandes said there were ''no clues. This has not happened all these years''.
The defence minister said the Indian troops have reached the LoC in the Drass sector. ''Some pockets there need to be cleared,'' he said.
Air-strikes have been on in Drass and Batalik sub-sectors where a large number of enemy casualties have been reported. The army is engaged in the Kargil sector since May 10, he added.
The fighting was now on in east and western ridges of Batalik. Due to the cutting off of the escape route, the Pakistanis were unable to evacuate their casualties from these areas. Radio messages intercepted by the Indian armed forces indicate the number of casualties to be heavy.
Fernandes said some Pakistani regulars along with intruders have been captured. He, however, did not disclose the exact number.
External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who was also at the meeting, informed the opposition leaders that foreign ministers of Britain, United States, Russia and France have made it clear to Pakistan that they will not approve Islamabad's attempts to drag the Kargil issue to the United Nations.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P R Kumaramangalam said another meeting will be held after a gap of ten to 15 days. ''If there is some significant development before that, the prime minister will convene the meeting earlier'', he added.
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