India rejects troop cuts along LoC
* Mukherjee says ‘terrorists’ waiting to infiltrate Kashmir
* Peace is welcome but Indian forces ready to face any attack
JAMMU: India’s Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday ruled out any reduction of troops along the Line of Control (LoC) in Held Jammu and Kashmir, saying a “large number of terrorists” were waiting to sneak across the LoC.
According to IANS news agency Mr Mukherjee, who was on his first trip to the troubled state since assuming the office last month, declared the existing strength of troops would be maintained to “protect our national interests”.
Noting that infiltration from Pakistan across the LoC had slowed down, Mr Mukherjee told reporters, “Nevertheless, there are a large number of terrorists waiting to cross-over to this side, but our troops are vigilant and alert.” The Indian defence minister visited forward posts in the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch.
Mr Mukherjee said the Indian government hoped that the ceasefire and the peace initiative with Pakistan would reach the logical conclusion of finding a “solution that has been eluding us so far”.
He said the ceasefire was holding and the peace initiative was progressing.
“We welcome this and the official talks between the two countries is an indicator of the improvement in the situation. We can hope that peace is maintained on the borders but we cannot guarantee that there will be no reversal of the situation,” Mr Mukherjee said.
He parried the question whether the peace on the borders would result in a cut in the defence budget. “For this you will have to wait till July 8,” he said, referring to the day on which the Indian budget will be presented in parliament.
Asked whether China or Pakistan was more dangerous, Mr Mukherjee said, “I don’t describe any country as an enemy. We want good relations with all but our troops are vigilant to face any eventuality.”
Addressing troops in Rajouri, Mr Mukherjee said the Indian armed forces had stood the test of time by serving everywhere relentlessly, whether at the heights of Siachen or in the deserts of Rajasthan. Mr Mukherjee said he had visited Kashmir to get first-hand information on problems faced by troops while guarding the borders in one of the most inhospitable terrains in the world. He assured the soldiers that the best equipment would be provided to strengthen their fighting capabilities.
Mr Mukherjee visited the forward posts of Seklu, Pindigali and Point 489 in Rajouri sector. He also had an aerial survey of the LoC.
At Udhampur, he was briefed about the security situation in Kashmir by army officials. online