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June 1, 1999
Fernandes says no cease-fire till intruders are pushed back
Defence Minister George Fernandes today ruled out negotiating cease-fire with Pakistan unless or until the infiltrators, including Pakistani regulars, were pushed back across the line of control (LoC) in the Kargil sector.
''There is no question of negotiating any cease-fire. Our position is very clear: all those who have been pushed into our territory by the Pakistani side, including Pakistani troops, should go back across the LoC,'' the defence minister asserted.
Fernandes was answering questions on whether India would willing to negotiate some kind of cease-fire during Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz's visit to India. The defence minister said there was no scope for any confusion on the goal of the Kargil operations. He, however, clarified that he was not averse to allowing safe passage to the infiltrators to go back. ''That is probably negotiable,'' he said.
Asked what was the agenda for Aziz's visit, the defence minister declined to answer and said it would be worked out by the Ministry of External Affairs.
Fernandes, who has just returned from Kargil, said now the Pakistani establishment was changing its tone and conceding in a way that the whole thing was its handiwork. The defence minister also set at rest all speculation that the gains being made by the armed forces may be frittered away during negotiations.
``There is no question of frittering away what we are fighting for today. Our goals are clear-- to throw the infiltrators out and clear our territory of them.'' The defence minister also discounted the possibility of the conflict escalating into a full-fledged war.
On the situation in the Kargil sector today, the defence minister said there were strikes in the Mashkoh valley and though it was generally cloudy the strikes were ``good.''
On Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra's reported remark that he was for an inquiry into the alleged intelligence failure, the defence minister said he had not seen the statement. ``Discussion on this (intelligence failure) is not called for at this point of time as the (national) task on hand is to throw the intruders out,'' he said.
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