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Infiltration down considerably: Fernandes

Sujit Chatterjee in New Delhi | February 11, 2004 16:00 IST

As the two countries prepare for official level talks next week, India on Wednesday said there is 'solid information' that the Pakistan government has taken steps to put down cross-border terrorism and that infiltration has come down by a considerable extent.

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However, this assessment of Defence Minister George Fernandes was tempered with a caution that there were 'elements" outside the Pakistan government strategising to continue their terrorist activities in India and to derail the movement towards normalcy.

In an hour-long interview to PTI, he spoke on the situation along the border following the November ceasefire and voiced optimism about further improvement of relations between the two countries.

Asked who these elements working to destroy the peace process were, he said they are "autonomous agencies" who had been indulging in these kinds of activities but there is no evidence of their being funded by Pakistani authorities.

"Lets us not forget that these very elements tried to assassinate the hand that earlier helped them," he said without taking any names.

"From the day of the ceasefire there had not been one bullet fired by either side and the border is as peaceful and silent as it should normally be. Infiltration has also declined to a considerable extent for which there are two reasons," he said.

The first reason, the minister said, was strengthening of the border by India as well as fixing sensors to the extent the forces could reach. There were still some areas which were yet to be covered but major areas of infiltration have already been taken care of, he said.

The second reason, he said, was that the cover that used to be available to the terrorist elements from the Pakistani forces on the border was "hardly there." This, he felt, was due to improvement in Indo-Pak relations.

On the prospects of forward movement in the talks in Islamabad next week, he said: "I believe they would take their own time. The problem that has been bothering both countries for so many decades will need substantial time to resolve. But all signs point that there is confidence developing among both the parties."

On the chances of a positive outcome of the talks and future of the composite dialogue process, Fernandes said: "It will depend upon the course the dialogue process takes. Any statement today will be difficult to give."

On apprehensions of security for the Indian cricket tour of Pakistan next month, he said: "Well, if there is any kind of reservation anywhere, it has nothing to do with Indo-Pak relations but with terrorism which can raise its head anywhere, anytime without anyone's knowledge and at the time of its choice."

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To a question about India's concerns over reports of nuclear proliferation from Pakistan, the minister said: "What is now appearing in the media is what we always knew and I am sure that Pakistani leadership will also understand the gravity of the situation and take appropriate steps to cope with it.


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