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September 1, 2000
Defence ministry issues vague denial on Anand claims
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
The defence ministry on Friday issued a vague denial against claims of Rajya Sabha member R K Anand that Pakistan was occupying six strategically important Indian peaks close to the line of control.
"The latest controversy appears to be motivated and is harmful to India's security interest," the statement issued by the public relations wing of the defence ministry said.
"The government appeals to the concerned quarters to desist from casting aspersions on the Indian Army, which has done the country proud repeatedly, both in peace and war," it said. The statement was issued after Defence Minister George Fernandes returned to office, after a tour of north-eastern states.
Army chief General V P Malik called on Fernandes in the morning and apprised him of the situation. The minister is believed to have advised the army chief not to drag the issue further, while refusing to get himself involved.
The clarification issued by the ministry's information wing said, "It is clarified that Point 5353 is on the line of control and not inside the territory under India's control".
The controversy "being raked up on this issue is based on distorted facts as borne out from maps of delineation between India and Pakistan in 1972."
There have been media reports in recent times that Point 5353 is being held by Pakistani soldiers on the Indian side of the LoC and it offers a strategic view of a long stretch of the Srinagar-Leh highway.
Anand said on Wednesday that besides Point 5353, Pakistan is occupying five strategic peaks close to the LoC. These peaks offer a view of the strategic highway, the Drass helipad and several other important Indian installations.
The army chief on Thursday had said that the army was ready with a reply, but was waiting for political clearance as Anand was a Rajya Sabha member.
Friday's denial does not refer to the five other peaks nor does it categorically claim that none of the peaks on the Indian side of the LoC are being held by Pakistani Army.
Anand told rediff.com on Friday evening that he would not let go such a sensitive issue because it involves India's sovereignty.
The denial said that the Indian government was aware of the ground situation. "It is further stated that the ground situation is well-known to the government and that India's posture along the LoC is militarily sound with an edge over the other side."
Army officials point out that it is possible that one or odd post close to the LoC could be held by Pakistan, though it may technically fall on the Indian side. However, "in those wild mountains it is very difficult to identify each peak," they pointed out.
However, Anand claimed that last year's Kargil operations were wrapped up before all peaks were reclaimed as elections were near.
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