No unprovoked attack from across border shall go unanswered: Sitharaman

NEW DELHI, Jun 5: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said the Army will continue to respect the ongoing 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, 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.

“The ceasefire will have to be contextualised. The Home Minister’s announcement of ceasefire even as we want to honour it, does not exclude the possibility of the Army hitting back whenever there is an unprovoked attack,” she said, adding “There is no U-turn” in dealing with cross-border firing.

The Defence Minister said the Army was given the right to adequately respond to any cross border attacks or unprovoked firing.

Notwithstanding India’s announcement of Ramzan ceasefire and talks between the Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries, there have been incidents of cross border firing along the Line of Control and International Border in Jammu and Kashmir and nearly a dozen grenade attacks by militants within a week in the Valley.

“It is our duty to keep our borders safe. We shall be alert and ensure that no unprovoked attacks go without us responding. It is the duty of the defence ministry and the forces to keep India safe,” Sitharaman said.

She was responding to questions on the firing along the Indo-Pak border despite the two sides agreeing for a truce.

Sitharaman said the Army was taken on board before the Home Ministry announced the ceasefire in the troubled state.

Replying to another question, she said it is not her ministry’s role to determine whether the ongoing Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir has been successful or not.

“We honour the ceasefire. We have been given room to hit back when there is unprovoked attack. The Defence Ministry’s role is not to assess whether ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir has been successful or not,” she said.

Asked whether the ceasefire will be extended, she said, “It is only announced for Ramzan.”

The Government had announced suspension of operations against militants during the period of Ramzan, which started from May 17.

On the possibility of engaging Pakistan in dialogue, Sitharaman reiterated External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s comments that talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand.

The LoC has been witnessing increasing hostilities in the last few months.

A total of 908 incidents of ceasefire violations by Pakistan Army were reported till last week in the current year as against 860 incidents during 2017, defence sources in New Delhi said.

Last week, the DGMOs of India and Pakistan had agreed to “fully implement” the ceasefire pact of 2003 in “letter and spirit” forthwith to stop cross border firings in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Defence Minister also said that Government was working to expedite promotion prospects for JCOs, adding, “We want to do something for the ordinary soldier so that he has opportunity to grow.”

She also said that the Defence Ministry was working very closely with the service headquarters to evolve “quick solutions” and to make short service commission far more attractive proposition for women. (PTI)