No Unprovoked Attack From Pak Shall Go Unanswered: Sitharaman

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New Delhi: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the Army will continue to respect the Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir but asserted that no unprovoked attack from across the border will go unanswered as the forces have been given the right to hit back.

Addressing a press conference on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the NDA government, Ms Sitharaman said the government’s decision to go for ceasefire was not a ‘U-turn’ from its policy of hot pursuit in dealing with cross border terrorism.

She also said that there cannot be dialogue with Pakistan as talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand.

Notwithstanding announcement of Ramzan ceasefire and talks between the DGMOs of the two countries, there have been incidents of cross border firing along the LoC and IB and nearly a dozen grenade attacks by militants within a week in the Valley.

In the backdrop of rise in cross-border firing in Jammu and Kashmir and the death of two soldiers in Akhnoor sector on Sunday, Union minister Hansraj Ahir said the government would be “constrained” to revoke the Ramzan ceasefire it had announced on May 16, if Pakistan continued to push terrorists across the border.

“We had decided to suspend operations in view of Ramzan. However, there is no respite in cross-border terrorism and ceasefire violations on the part of Pakistan,”said Mr Ahir.

“We will be constrained to revoke the ceasefire agreement,” the minister said, adding that that the provisions of the truce allow India to retaliate if Pakistan initiates unprovoked firing. India, however, continues to believe in the “no-first-strike” policy, the minister clarified.

Terming as “unfortunate” the fresh ceasefire violation along the International Border in Jammu region, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti yesterday said the DGMOs (Director General of Military Operations) of India and Pakistan should hold dialogue again and stop the bloodshed. Innocent villagers at the border are suffering, the Chief Minister said.

The home minister has, however, said that the centre’s decision not to proactively carry out operations during Ramzan was different from a unilateral ceasefire. The minister reiterated that it had been clearly stipulated, the security forces would resume operation if any terror-related activity takes place. “We haven’t tied hands of our security forces,” Mr Singh had said.

Earlier, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh accepted Jammu Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s request of no ceasefire during Ramzan.

In a statement issued, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “The Centre asks Security Forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan. Decision taken to help the peace loving Muslims observe Ramzan in a peaceful environment. Security Forces to reserve the right to retaliate if attacked or if essential to protect the lives of innocent people. Government expects everyone to cooperate in this initiative and help the Muslim brothers & sisters to observe Ramzan peacefully and without any difficulties,” the statement read.

“It is important to isolate the forces that bring a bad name to Islam by resorting to mindless violence and terror,” the MHA further said.

“The Centre has asked security forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan,” PDP Youth Wing President Waheed Para said.

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