May 1999 News


Vajapyee rejects UN offer to depute envoy to India

30 May 1999
News Agencies

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said he had told UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that if at all the world body wanted to undertake a peace mission, it should send its envoy to Pakistan.

Annan rang me up last night to convey his proposal to send a special envoy to India and Pakistan to sort out the matter between the two countries but I firmly told him that if at all an envoy has to be sent, he should go to Pakistan and not India, Vajpayee told a gathering here adding that the operation to flush out infiltrators from Kargil would continue till it was accomplished.

In the sustained operation backed by air strikes, an Indian army Major M Sarvanan was shot but not before he had gunned down at least four heavily armed militants in literally a hand to hand combat in Batalik sector last night, Maj Gen J J Singh told reporters here adding that two more infiltrators were also killed by the jawans accompanying Sarvanan.

Even as Pakistan denied having shot Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja in cold blood after he bailed out and landed on the other side of the Line of Control, New Delhi today lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over his brutal killing.

Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan here Akbar Zeb was summoned by the External Affairs Ministry and firmly told that India strongly condemned this act of cowardice and savagery and expected prosecution of those responsible on charges of murder.

A post-mortem report of Ahuja’s body revealed that he was shot twice, through the ear and in the chest.

Meanwhile, troops found the wreckage and bodies of four crew members of a MI-17 IAF helicopter which was shot down by ‘stinger’ missile fired by the infiltrators well within the Indian territory in north of Drass, establishing beyond doubt Pakistani backing of intruders.

The armed forces continued to maintain a high state of operation alert in the entire western sector extending to J and K as intelligence reports continued to warn of substantial Pakistani troop movement along the Line of Control and well established international border with Pakistan.

Defence Minister George Fernandes and Army chief Gen V P Malik today made a survey of operational areas in Kargil and its sub-sectors of Drass and Batalik.

Even as body of Ahuja was today cremated in Bhatinda in Punjab with full military honours, Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa turned 26 in Pakistani captivity and Home Minister L K Advani sent a birthday greeting to his home in Adampur wishing his early return.

Indian troops backed by air strikes for the fifth day pushed back infiltrators and established control over key ridges.

Srinagar airport, which had been closed to civilian traffic since May 26 to facilitate movement of fighter aircraft and troops, was reopened today after necessary reinforcements in the Kargil sectors.

A Defence Ministry official denied reports about use of cluster bombs and carpet bombing in the high ridges of Kargil saying use of such weaponry could also affect the security of Indian ground troops.

He said Air Force had been mainly using 56 mm and 80 mm rockets besides a variety of high precision weapons to neutralise the infiltrators.

The official also denied a claim of Pakistan-backed militant group ‘Lashkar-e-Toiba’ in Islamabad that they were in complete control of a 25-30 km-long strip of the Srinagar-Leh National Highway.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz maintained that he was visiting the Indian capital this week though there was no official confirmation of his visit here.

Media reports in Islamabad quoted him as saying that he would visit New Delhi to defuse tension but not apologise for the shooting down of the IAF aircraft.

Malik said the joint operations by the Army and Air Force could continue for some more time as India was clear in its stand that its armed forces would not cross the LoC.

Had the armed forces crossed the LoC, the operations could have been completed in a much shorter span by striking the logistical and military targets on the other side, he said, adding that the operations have already started showing results.

Singh categorically denied reports that the intruders from Kargil area had moved Eastward and deeper into Ladakh and said there is no question of it... All intrusions have been contained... They have been pushed back in all sectors where they came in from.

Terming the killing of Ahuja by Pakistani troops as an act of cowardice, Malik recalled that three US airmen who had been captured in Kosovo recently by Yugoslav forces had been treated with dignity and returned to American authorities unharmed.

While NATO was operating in ‘enemy territory’, Ahuja’s plane was inside Indian airspace when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile fired by the Pakistanis, he said, adding that after bailing out, the squadron leader had landed in Pakistan-occupied territory where he was killed.

The post-mortem report of Ahuja showed a penetrating gunshot wound: Entry near right ear, exit near the external orifice of left ear.

(Second) gunshot wound: Entry 2 cm medial to right nipple, exit near left iliac crest damaging internal viscera like liver, intestine and peritonium, it said, adding that Ahuja had suffered a compound fracture of the left knee.

Singh also denied a report from Islamabad that the infiltrators were controlling a portion of the vital road link between Srinagar and Leh and said though civilian traffic was not being allowed on the national highway 1-A due to shelling by Pakistan, regular Army convoys were moving and the road was in total control of the Indian Army.

Meanwhile, a report from Srinagar said Defence Minister George Fernandes and Army Chief General V P Malik today conducted an aerial survey of Kargil, Drass and Batalik areas. They were accompanied by GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt Gen H M Khanna, and Commander of 15th Corps Lt Gen Krishan Pal.

The Defence Minister yesterday reviewed the situation with top officials of armed and paramilitary forces and the police and later visited wounded soldiers at Army base hospital in Jammu and Kashmir.

Fernandes yesterday said 400 Pakistani intruders had so far been killed in the entire Kargil region and some of them, including Pakistan Army regulars captured.

Indian casualties stood at 31 killed, 128 wounded and 12 missing.

Asked how long the operations would continue, Malik said if the other side gives the message and withdraws the infiltrators, it will be over very soon.

Malik said efforts were being made at military, political and diplomatic levels to get back Flt Lt K Nachiketa, who turned 26 years in Pakistani custody today. Nachiketa was taken in by Pakistani troops and declared a prisoner of war.

Singh denied a report from Islamabad that the militants were controlling a portion of the Srinagar-Leh National Highway and said though civilian traffic was not being allowed on it due to Pakistani shelling, regular army convoys were moving and the road was in total control of the Indian army.

While about 400 intruders were estimated to have been killed so far, Indian casualties stood at 33 killed, 130 wounded and 12 missing.

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