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July 1, 1999
Advani non-committal on army crossing LoCChindu Sreedharan in Kargil
What Union Home Minister L K Advani said in Kargil sector on Wednesday -- or rather what he did not -- has left the possibility of the Indian Army being given permission to cross the Line of Control open.
In Sankoo, about 40 km away from the troubled Kargil town to meet the refugees who have fled shells-truck areas, the home minister did not categorically deny the possibility. His answer to a direct question left much room for a change of mind.
"As of now," he said, "the policy of restraint and not crossing the LoC has yielded rich dividends. Already, the Pakistani adventure in Kargil has been contained. It's only a question of time before it is completely foiled. Pakistan realises that this particular venture of theirs has proved very costly. The approach adopted till now, I do not see it being radically changed,'' he added.
Pressed on the point, Advani refused a direct answer to the question that's foremost on the public mind -- will this conflict lead to a war? All he would say was that he saw no reason for 'a radical change as of now'.
Army Chief General V P Malik had tossed up the possibility of the Indian troops crossing the LoC to cut off Pakistani supplies last Thursday. By containing the war to the Indian side, the army finds itself with its back against the wall: supplies and reinforcement keep coming to the intruders who, as it is, have the advantage of height.
However, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had categorically said the very next day that operations would be limited to the Indian side.
But now, with Advani's statement, the possibility has come alive again.
The Indian Army has been pushing hard in Delhi to be allowed to cross over, and is expected to try harder now, in light of the heavy casualties it suffered in the last few days.
In the assault on Point 4700 and Black Rock Heights alone, it lost 21 men.
Many officers and men on the front are all for crossing the LoC. An open war, they feel, would be better than an undeclared one.
Advani also refused to comment when asked how long it would take to evict the intruders. Asked whether the Kargil sector would turn into another Siachen he said: "At the moment the Government of India's effort on the military plain as well as the diplomatic plain is totally focussed on having the Line of Control restored to status quo ante.''
Expectedly, Advani's arrival in Sankoo was greeted with shells from across the border. The sound of shelling in Kargil could be heard while he was with the refugees in Sankoo.
Advani was accompanied by Jammu and Kashmir Governor Girish Chandra Saxena. Also present on the occasion was J&K PWD Minister Qamar Ali Akhoon.
The home minister exhorted the refugees to return home as soon as the situation normalised, and promised that they would be provided relief at their villages.
Advani later left for Mingi, another refugee centre 13 km away from Kargil, after about 45 minutes in Sankoo.
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