November 2003 News

Ceasefire could lead to a final solution on Kashmir: Fernandes

26 November 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent

RAIPUR: Expressing hope that the ceasefire between India and Pakistan could take them to a solution of the vexed Kashmir issue, Defence Minister George Fernandes today said the matter should be looked at from a 'positive angle'. 'There are enough reasons to believe the ceasefire could take them (the two countries) to a final solution as it was implemented after a serious thought,' he told reporters here. Maintaining that the matter should be looked at from a 'positive angle', he said the initiative taken by India earlier had not yielded success but the step taken by the Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali would give momentum to resolving the outstanding issues and both the nations should work to take it to a 'final solution'. However, the ceasefire would not be binding on the Army as far as militants were concerned and any one trying to intrude into the border would be given the same treatment that was being given earlier, Fernandes said. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had promised he would try once again and this ceasefire was an outcome of that, he said. On whether Pakistan was adopting a 'soft' attitude towards India because of the impending visit of Vajpayee, the Defence Minister said he was not aware of the reasons. 'Who does not want all the outstanding issues to be resolved permanently and relations strengthened to remove the effect of tension on development,' Fernandes said. To a question about dialogue with militants, Fernandes said Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani has taken steps for a dialogue with them and this ceasefire would also bring momentum to that. He dismissed reports that the step was taken on 'instructions' from the US, saying, 'no one can instruct India on any matter since it is a powerful nation'. Asked about Pakistan not being reliable in the past, Fernandes said 'in relations between nations there comes a time when one does find a need to come to terms and resolve whatever problems that exist. 'And therefore for the two neighbours like India Pakistan, when Prime Minister (Atal Bihari Vajapyee) made a third offer, despite whatever may have happened in the interregnum, the latest response by the Pakistan Prime Minister shows a lot of hope. Therefore, one should not take it lightly and dismiss it.' With regard to infiltration from across the border, Fernandes said 'this had figured in discussions between Directors General of Military Operations of the two countries. If there is any infiltration, it will be dealt with in the same manner it has been dealt with so far'. Meanwhile, it was all quiet on India-Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir with no reports of any shelling or trading of gunfire after the first-ever ceasefire between the two armies since the outbreak of militancy in the State came into force midnight last night. 'No firing incident has been reported from anywhere along the 778-Km Line of Control, 198-Km International Border and 150-Km stretch of the actual ground position line in Siachen since the truce came into effect,' an Army Spokesman said in New Delhi. He said Army had been told not to target Pakistani troops even if there were attempts by militants to cross the border. However, there would be no let up in anti- insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, the spokesman said. In Islamabad, Pakistanís Defence spokesman, Maj Gen Shoukat Sultan, told PTI that 'the ceasefire is holding. There has been no violation from either side.' There was exchange of fire in some sectors along the LoC till afternoon yesterday but 'guns finally fell silent by midnight last night', he said. 'The ceasefire is holding on the entire LoC, Siachin sector and the rest from midnight last night. There was no violations from either side. Hope it stays like that to set the stage for improvement of relations between the two countries,' he said. Maj Gen Sultan said Pakistan forces have been instructed to observe restraint in case of any firing from the other side. 'They will observe ceasefire. They have been instructed to observe maximum restraint,' he said. The timing of the ceasefire has been agreed by Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries over the hotline yesterday. The ceasefire was proposed by Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali in his address to the nation over TV and Radio on November 23. India subsequently came up with a positive response. After clarification from Pakistan that the ceasefire offer held good for the world's highest battle ground, Siachin sector also, the two sides agreed to observe it from midnight last night. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had in November 2000 announced a Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir aimed at bringing the militant groups for talks with the Centreís interlocutors. However, this was rejected by Pakistan-based Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin. Meanwhile Indian jawans congratulated Pakistani troops on the occasion of Eid and exchanged sweets at Octerie Border Out Post (BOP) and Suchetgarh in Jammu, Northern Command Spokesman Lt Col R Sen told PTI on phone from Udhampur. Such exchanges also took place in some other places in the State, he added. The border situation in J-K was 'totally quiet' and there were no reports of any shelling or trading of gunfire since the ceasefire came into effect since midnight, Sen said. (AGENCIES)


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