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August 11, 2000
Every inch of Kargil in our control: George
Fakir Chand in Bangalore
Union Defence Minister George Fernandes declared on Friday that every inch of our land, including Kargil and Drass sectors, bordering Pakistan, is under the control of India.
Refuting reports in a section of the press on Pakistan troops being in control of Point 5353 in Drass, Fernandes said, "I am making a statement that every inch of our land is in our control. I do not subscribe to comments by others."
Fernandes said reports on the occupation of on the Indian side of Point 5353 still by Pakistan troops was mere speculation and that he would not be able to hold a brief based on press statements, quoting army officers.
On whether there would be a repeat of the Kargil war on account of failure of peace talks in Kashmir and unabated cross-border terrorism, Fernandes said intrusion into Indian territory would be impossible again "because today every post on the frontier or on the LoC is manned by our troops, or otherwise under surveillance."
Accusing Pakistan of derailing the peace process initiated by the Islamabad-based Hizbul Mujahideen, Fernandes apprehended that the proxy war would continue as Pakistan was still not prepared to see sense in ending such despicable acts.
"If it was prepared to see sense, it would have supported the Hizb, which decided to lay down arms for a dialogue with India to restore peace in the Kashmir Valley. The fact that Pakistan did everything possible to defeat the peace process only goes to show that the proxy war will go on," Fernandes thundered.
If Pakistan wanted to talk to India, Fernandes said it should first stop the proxy war; should stop sending terrorists from across the border and stop violating the LoC or the international border.
"If Pakistan is prepared to do that, then we can sit and talk. But if it continues to shoot and yet wants India to talk, that is not going to happen," Fernandes asserted.
The minister regretted that what was happening in Kashmir was not unexpected as India has been facing such troubled times for 10 years or more.
"In spite of that, we have been making efforts to restore peace in the region. The Lahore process initiated by the prime minister was one of the steps taken by India to resume a dialogue with Pakistan."
On whether the situation in Kashmir would improve, Fernandes said one should never give up hope, as after every war, there has always been peace. "If militants are ready to talk, we will talk to them. The only condition is they should be willing for a dialogue with us."
On whether the MiG-21 fleet would be withdrawn by the Indian Air Force as many of its fighter aircraft have crashed recently, claiming precious lives of young pilots, the defence minister said the fleet was the IAF's mainstay and would continue to remain in service for 15-20 years.
"Yes, the MiGs have been having problems, but not from today. The problems have been there over a period of time. But they have reduced considerably. The number of accidents has also come down. Therefore, when there are accidents, they could be because of human error, bird-hits, or due to technical problems. Yet, I don't think we should consider withdrawing them overnight or every time there is a crash as half of the IAF fleet consists of MiGs and they are our mainstay," Fernandes clarified.
The minister disclosed that the government would soon decide on the purchase of British Hawks, advanced jet trainers, for inducting them into the IAF to train young pilots. "The price evaluation committee is going through the process and a decision will be taken soon."
On whether the French Alpha jets were also in the race, Fernandes said the committee was considering only the Hawks.
Ruling out the intervention of army commandos in rescuing Kannada matinee idol from the clutches of forest brigand Veerappan, Fernandes said the job of the army was to protect the frontiers and fight the enemy from without and within in case of insurgency.
"The army is not going to deal with some local problems. It is the local police who should deal with it," the minister added.
Fernandes was on a day's visit to Bangalore on Friday to present the M A Thomas national human rights award to Justice V M Tarakunde (91), instituted by the Vigil India Movement at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
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