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June 30, 1999
Naik suggests Pak infiltrators, Indian troops pull back
Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi
Diplomatic efforts are under way to end the Kargil crisis even as the Indian armed forces continued with their operations to recapture important heights.
Former Pakistani foreign secretary Niaz Naik, who had made a not-so-secret visit to New Delhi a few days ago, said the stage is being set for the infiltrators to withdraw from their positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control.
Naik had visited New Delhi as special emissary of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief and held discussions with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's special adviser Brajesh Mishra, a former Foreign Service officer.
Naik said the directors-general of military operations of both sides would be meeting soon to discuss the modalities of bringing about a cease-fire. The infiltrators and Indian troops will then withdraw from the positions held by them in the Kargil sector. (This claim, however, was contradicted by Prime Minister Vajpayee himself in Lucknow this evening.)
External affairs ministry spokesman Raminder Singh Jassal, however, said India's singular demand is that the armed intruders must pull out and it does not matter what channels are used to achieve this objective.
Jassal pointed out that the DGMOs of India and Pakistan are regularly speaking to each other, as they are connected by a hotline. "The DGMOs have been in touch from the very beginning," he said, adding that they had spoken as recently as yesterday!
Besides Naik's visit, other track-2 diplomatic efforts are on to ease the tension and prepare the ground for cessation of hostilities. Mubashir Hasan, a former Pakistani minister, also visited New Delhi to meet influential leaders active in promoting Indo-Pak friendship. The government, however, has made no comment on his visit.
Meanwhile, the army and air force continued to make substantial gains in the Drass and Batalik sectors.
In an area west of the Tololing ridge (captured on June 20), soldiers of the Garhwal Rifles and the Rajputana Rifles recaptured key features to drive the enemy from the heights. Now the Grenadiers have taken over from the Rajputana Rifles.
"In the attack by the Garhwal Rifles, we lost 11 of our men while killing 15 of the Pakistanis. In the attack by the Rajputana Rifles and the Grenadiers, we have lost three officers and 12 men, besides 15 wounded. In the latter attack, there were 30 to 40 enemy soldiers present of whom most have been killed though we do not have the exact figure," said Colonel Bikram Singh, the army spokesman.
He refused to say whether the latest assault is on Tiger Hills, nor did he comment on the status of Tiger Hills, the last major height (4660 metres) held by the enemy that can still threaten the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh road.
"What I can tell you is that by our latest attack, we have removed an observation post of the enemy overlooking National Highway 1A and it will help us capture other enemy-held positions," he said.
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