Terror strikes can't derail peace initiative: George
30 June 2003
The Times of India
NEW DELHI: Terrorist strikes like Saturday's attack on an army camp near Jammu would not derail the peace initiative with Pakistan undertaken by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Defence Minister George Fernandes said on Monday. 'The Prime Minister has started the peace initiative with Pakistan. If someone across the border wants to derail this process by directing such attacks, he will not succeed,' Fernandes told reporters here after flagging-in the Indo-Nepal Army expedition which successfully scaled Mount Everest and Mount Lhotse. He said the two terrorists were Pakistanis and belonged to the Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit. 'No one can scare us (by such attacks),' he said while condemning the incident. Replying questions on the 'alertness' of the army, Fernandes said 'army has always been on alert .... this was a peace station and the attackers were 'fidayeens' who wanted to commit suicide.' Asked about the current level of infiltration from across the border, he said 'it is going on at the same level as it was before'. Replying to questions on defence acquisitions by Pakistan, the Defence Minister said while New Delhi wanted increased cooperation with Islamabad, 'Pakistan's build-up to compete withIndia(in the field of defence) will continue to remain a dream. It can never compete withIndia's strength,' he said. Stating that it was difficult to stop suicide attacks, Fernandes said while all concerned should maintain alert at all times, there is a need to create mass awareness against terrorism and militancy. Congratulating the team members for their achievements, he said climbing the two highest peaks together 'will remain a record which will not be broken soon.' He also specially complimented some members of the expedition who also participated in the 'marathon' run to the summit of Everest organised by mountaineers on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the scaling of the highest peak. Fernandes said he wanted the cooperation between the armed forces of India and Nepal to be strengthened in other fields as well. 'We are not just neighbours. We share the same culture as well as challenges', he said.