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No question of withdrawing troops from Kashmir: Mukherjee

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, July 3 (UNI) Sending out an unambiguous message to Pakistan, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said India does not entertain the idea of withdrawing its troops from Kashmir.

''There is no question of withdrawing the Army from Kashmir. The evaluation of the Army preparedness is a continuous process,'' Mr Mukherjee told reporters here.

Earlier, the External Affairs Ministry and the Army Chief had made similar statements, outrightly rejecting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's umpteenth suggestion that India demilitarise Kashmir.

Mr Mukherjee's statement is fraught with great significance in the backdrop of Gen. Musharraf's recent statement that withdrawal of Indian troops from Kashmir would herald a lasting solution to the Kashmir imbroglio.

Last week, Chief of the Army Staff Gen. J J Singh had also said that troops would not be withdrawn from Kashmir. He had also said that there was no need for deploying more troops in Kashmir.

The Army Chief's statement was in conformity with the perception of the External Affairs Ministry, which had earlier rejected the Pakistani proposal.

Asked about the increase in cross-border infiltration, Mr Mukherjee said there was nothing new about it. ''During these months every year, there is a spurt in the incidents of cross-border infiltration,'' he said, adding that the Army had recently foiled some serious attempts at intrusions from across the border.

The Defence Minister said terrorists had a mindset to foment troubles whenever the peace process got a fillip, and they would orchestrate violence to give a message to the world that everything was not well in Kashmir.

He pointed out that the Kashmir valley had witnessed a spurt in terror incidents after the conclusion of the second round of peace talks between India and Pakistan, and it reflected that mindset.

Earlier, Mr Mukherjee, on the occasion of a martyrs' function to honour Brig. Mohammaed Usman who was killed in the 1947-48 war, announced that a grand function would be organised in October-November to commemorate the memories of those who were killed in that war.


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