Al-Qaida operating near LoC: Rumsfeld
12 June 2002
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Reinforcing India’s fears, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today said there were ''indications'' of Al Qaeda terrorists operating near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and offered to provide ground sensors to monitor the militant incursions from across the Line of Control. ''I have seen indications that Al Qaeda is operating near the LoC,'' he told reporters after a 75-minute meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee before leaving for Islamabad. Rumsfeld’s comments assumed significance in the wake of statement by Border Security Force DIG R S Khullar in Srinagar that two militants killed in Drass sector in J and K last week appeared to belong to Al Qaeda. Asked whether US forces would pursue Al Qaeda in Kashmir, he said ''we are getting cooperation of all kinds of countries across the globe to fight Al Qaeda and its terrorist network and working to see that (these countries) do not become a haven for terrorists''. Observing that the situation on the Indo-Pak border ''continues to be tense'', Rumsfeld said ''we recognise the series of steps that India has taken recently like resumption of overflights, indication of a High Commissioner to be named, movement of naval forces to the south''. Rounding off a hectic day-long schedule of talks with top Indian leadership, Rumsfeld suggested a meeting of surveillance experts from UK, US, India and Pakistan to work out modalities for using such sensors to track cross LoC movements in Kashmir, a senior US official told foreign journalists. Setting up of infiltration monitoring mechanism figured prominently in talks Rumsfeld had with his Indian counterpart George Fernandes, Home Minister L K Advani, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, a US official said. The official said the sensors would be set on ground rather than air-borne and would be operated by local forces rather than by US or other foreign experts. ''It is unclear as to whether or not and to what extent we could be helpful.... It is for the technical people to see'', Rumsfeld said on sensors, adding that the goal was to see that there was no inflitration across the LoC and to check terrorists acts. The United States has already agreed to supply India with remote sensors and other advanced equipment like night visions to stop cross-border terrorism. An understanding to this effect was reached recently during the visit to Washington by Defence Secretary Yogendra Narain at the Indo-US joint defence policy group meeting. Narain had told reporters that Washington had agreed to put the supply of anti- terrorist equipment on fast track. On the issue of global war against terrorism, Rumsfeld said ''India and US are cooperating in a variety of ways in this war''. Terming Indo-US relationship as important, the US Defence Secretary said in recent years, this relationship has ''matured and strengthened'' especially in the military-to-military field. ''A series of connections and relationships beneficial to both our countries have been evolved,'' he said without elaborating. Praising the initiative shown by India in the present crisis, Rumsfeld said ''we recognise the leadership shown by the Indian Prime Minister during the current stand-off with Pakistan''.