September 2003 News

British Defence chief backs India’s case on infiltration

24 September 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Ahead of his tour of the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, the visiting British Chief of Defence Staff General Michael Walker today agreed with India’s assessment that infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir was continuing unabated. Walker said he was visiting the LoC in Uri sector in north Kashmir to assess the situation better, 'That seems to the case,' he said after a meeting with Defence Minister George Fernandes when asked whether infiltration from across the border was continuing. Though a number of top American and French generals have toured the LoC, the British Chief of Defence Staff would be the first visiting head of any foreign armed force to visit the LoC. Ironically, Walker would be among the few who have visited the LoC from both the sides. Emerging from his 30 minute meeting with Fernandes, he said that he had visited the LoC from occupied Kashmir three months ago. His visit to the LoC assumes significance in the wake of increased shelling by Pakistani troops recently. According to official figures, there have been as many as 216 infiltration attempts since January this year with over 131 terrorists mostly Pakistani mercernaries being killed on the LoC itself. Fernandes told the British General that India was still keen on peace with its neighbours, but unfortunately infiltration from across the border was continuing unabated. Fernandes also briefed Walker about Pakistan’s proxy war against India and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s recent peace initiative with Islamabad. Walker told newsmen that regular troops from India and UK would conduct joint exercises in India at the level of brigade in Febuary-March next year. He said that royal marines form a complement of the British contingent. He said that joint exercises would help the two countries in working out a joint standard operating procedure, which could help the armed forces of the two sides in operations in bigger theatres elsewhere in the world. A Defence Ministry spokesman later said that General Walker had also briefed the Defence Minister on UK’s experience in developing the Chief of Defence Staff System, which India is also seeking to enforce to bring about integration of all the three services. Describing Indo-UK defence ties as strong and derived from historical and economic linkages, the spokesman said that British side had proposed a number of operationally related training activities. Walker, who was given an inter-services guard of honour at the south block, met the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and Naval Chief Admiral Madhvendra Singh, Army Chief Gen N C Vij and Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal M McMohan. He would visit Agra and Gwalior tomorrow to tour the regimental centre of Skinner’s Horse, one of the oldest armoured regiment of Indian Army, in which his grandfather had served. (PTI)


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