India May Step Up Army Presence In J&K: Fernandes
1 April 2003
The Times of India
New Delhi: Voicing serious concern over reports of amassing of nearly 200,000 'jehadis' across the border in Pakistan, Defence Minister George Fernandes on Tuesday said if required, the Army presence would be further beefed up in Jammu and Kashmir. At the same time, he favoured continuance of 'healing touch' policy of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed government. Fernandes said while the world attention was riveted on the conflict in Iraq, reports were emerging of 200,000 trained 'jehadis' comprising Afghans, Pakistanis and from some other countries being massed across the border 'ready for any kind of action' in the valley. Such reports have been corroborated in London and the US State Department and this would be factored in by the special group set-up to review the security scenario in the state especially in the wake of the Nadimarg massacre of 24 Kashmiri Pandits, he said in a wide-ranging interview here. Stressing that such reports become much more significant as Pakistan was looked upon as 'comrade in the fight against terrorism,' he said 'there is confirmation now that it is a biggest terrorist state' - confirmation coming from two major allies of the coalition at present waging war against Iraq. Observing that the special group, set-up by a high-level meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani on Monday night, was seized of the entire security scenario in J&K, Fernandes said it had been authorised to codify India's 'riposte'.