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Truce along the LoC is holding: Army chief

By G Vinayak in Guwahati
January 02, 2004 23:25 IST
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Chief of Army Staff General N C Vij today averred that the ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is holding, but qualified the statement by saying it is too early to say whether infiltration by terrorists from across the border has decreased.

Speaking to reporters after a whirlwind tour of India's border with Bhutan, Gen Vij said: "There has been no firing from across the LoC and there have been only four infiltration attempts, but to say that the situation is completely normal would be too premature since infiltration in any case is down during the winter months. A real assessment is possible as we get into May."

The army chief also allayed fears of complacency setting in within the armed forces because India has taken a fresh initiative for peace with Pakistan. "We are not complacent. We are prepared for any eventuality," Gen Vij asserted when reminded that Kargil had happened immediately after the Lahore bus ride.

The general, who had earlier served in Assam as commander of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps, complimented the Royal Bhutan Army for its successful operation against three Indian militant groups.

"The RBA operations have broken the back of ULFA [the United Liberation Front of Asom] and two other militant groups," Gen Vij said. "Nearly 650 militants of all three groups have been neutralized [killed, arrested or taken into custody after surrender] by the RBA and us. The mopping up operations are on inside Bhutan and we will assess the long-term impact in the days to come. We have taken care to see to it that the militants do not sneak acroos into Arunachal Pradesh or Assam."

About the overall situation in the Northeast, Gen Vij said: "It is much better than it was five years ago. The Naga peace process is on. The ULFA does not enjoy support among the people. The situation is definitely improving."

Asked for his opinion about the possibility of Burma and Bangladesh also taking a leaf out of Bhutan's book, the army chief pointed to External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha's recent statement when he expressed the hope that both Rangoon and Dhaka would follow suit. "In any case, we have very good army-to-army cooperation between India and Myanmar," he said.

Gen Vij did not rule out the possibility of holding joint exercises with the Burmese army. "In any case our personnel train Myanmarese armymen from time to time."

Earlier, the general toured the Bhutan border and held a review meeting with Eastern Army commander Lieutenant General J S Verma and Lt Gen Mohinder Singh, general officer commanding, 4 Corps.

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G Vinayak in Guwahati