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June 30, 1999
Vajpayee does not rule out crossing LoC
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today did not rule out the possibility of India crossing the Line of Control "in the long run".
Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, his parliamentary constituency, Vajpayee said: "As of now we have no intention of crossing the LoC, but there have been varying opinions from different defence experts and all these are being considered."
The prime minister was referring to a public statement by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, who gave a virtual battle cry for not only crossing the LoC, but also taking back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
In reply to another question regarding the Pakistani threat of nuclear war, he declared, "We are prepared for any eventuality."
He said the country's economy is strong enough to bear the burden of the present "war-like" situation.
Asked about the 'secret' visit of Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharief's special emissary Niaz Naik, Vajpayee admitted to having had a brief meeting with him, but clarified, "I made it loud and clear to Niazsaab that there was no question of holding any talks until Pakistan ensured the pullout of the intruders and Pakistani military personnel. And we will not provide them any safe passage to leave."
Answering a supplementary, he said, "It is not possible to give any time-frame for the clearing operation, but I am confident we will do it soon."
Vajpayee added, "In fact, there are more Pakistani army men than mujahideen in Kargil."
When a scribe drew his attention to Pakistan's oft-repeated demand for clubbing the Kargil crisis with a permanent settlement of the Kashmir imbroglio, the prime minister pointed out, "We are definitely interested in working out a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem, but there is no question of clubbing the Kargil issue as part of any such package. Kargil will be dealt with independently."
About holding a special session of the Upper House of Parliament to discuss the crisis, he said, "The question is still under consideration, though the recent all-party meeting failed to arrive at any consensus."
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