Today's Paper

Some forward posts will be maintained: Fernandes

SIACHEN GLACIER DEC. 25. India today said that some forward positions on the border with Pakistan would be maintained for strategic reasons even after the completion of troops withdrawal.

"Whatever (withdrawal) had to done has been done. For strategic reasons, some of the forward positions that we have, we will maintain," the Defence Minister, George Fernandes, said, addressing troops at the world's highest battle field.

Accusing Islamabad of showing no let-up in support to cross-border terrorism, he said that at any given time, up to 3,000 infiltrators were waiting to cross over to India. But day-to-day firing on the border had come down significantly.

Keeping his date with the troops for the third year in a row, the Minister visited the glacier, extended Christmas greetings to the Army personnel in the snow-clad mountains and distributed cakes.

He told presspersons at the base camp that de-mining of the forward areas would be done very carefully as India had already lost about 80 personnel in the process.

Mr. Fernandes told the troops: "After December 13, a situation was created where we had to deploy our forces in full strength. We have achieved our objective of their deployment with the successful conduct of elections in Jammu and Kashmir. People the worldover had doubted whether elections in Jammu and Kashmir would be fair. But the elections were held so well and that was possible due to the deployment of the security forces."

After visiting the icy heights of the Siachen Glacier, he flew to the deserts of Sriganganagar to witness first hand the completion of the troop withdrawal from the International Border. Mr. Fernandes, who would also visit Anupgarh and Suratghar to see the demining operations, said that they would take about three months to complete.