JAMMU, June 5: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today declared that Army would keep the borders safe at any cost notwithstanding ceasefire announced in Jammu and Kashmir and that no “unprovoked attack” from across the border (a direct reference to Pakistan) will go unanswered. She added that even the ceasefire has given the Army right to retaliate, if attacked.
In a series of tweets and addressing a press conference in the Union capital on the completion of four years of Narendra Modi-led NDA Government at the Centre, Sitharaman said: “the Ministry of Defence (MoD) role is not to assess whether the ceasefire is successful or not. Our duty is to guard the borders. We will keep the borders safe. The ceasefire is being honoured by us but, if attacked, we have been given the right to retaliate.
“Ceasefire at the borders is very important. However, it is equally important to respond to any terror attacks on our country. When it is an unprovoked attack, the Army will retaliate. We honour the ceasefire but of course, a margin was given to us when there is an unprovoked attack,” she added.
Sitharaman said the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir for the holy month of Ramzan is a Government of India decision and “we abide by it”. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced conditional ceasefire in J&K on May 16 for the month of Ramzan but made it clear that security forces would reserve the right to retaliate, if attacked. Rajnath is visiting Jammu and Kashmir on June 7 and 8 to review post-ceasefire situation on which a decision would depend on whether to extend the ceasefire or not.
Replying to a question on talks with Pakistan, the Defence Minister reiterated the statement made recently by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that talks and terror can’t go together.
“External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has made a clear statement that talks and terrorism can’t go hand-in-hand,” she asserted.
Sitharaman said the Army was taken on board before the Home Ministry announced the ceasefire in the troubled State.
Asked whether the ceasefire will be extended, she said, “It is only announced for Ramzan.”
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, sources 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 but in less than a week Pakistani Rangers had violated the commitment by resorting to heavy mortar shelling and firing at Pargwal and Kanachak sectors of Jammu district in the wee hours of Sunday, leading to martyrdom of two BSF jawans and injuries to 16 others including 15 civilians and a police constable.
PTI adds from New Delhi: Sitharaman asserted that there was absolutely “no scandal” in the Rafale fighter jet deal with France and allegations of wrongdoings relating to it were politically motivated.
Without naming the Congress, Sitharaman said, “false comparisons” were made between the price at which India was procuring the jets and the price being negotiated by some other countries.
“I am assuring you in the company of all the senior officials that yes there is no scandal in Rafale. We are very clear about that,” she said replying to a question on allegations of scam in the Rafale deal.
“Absolutely,” she said when asked whether she can assure that not even a single rupee has been made in the Rafale deal.
She called the allegations very clear case of “motivated attacks”.
Sitharaman also said that there have been no allegations of corruption against any officials of the Defence Ministry in the last four years.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore, nearly one-and-half years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the proposal during a visit to Paris.
The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September, 2019.
The Congress had raised several questions about the deal including the rates, and accused the Government of compromising national interest and security while causing a loss to the public exchequer.
The Congress has been demanding details of the deal including cost of equipment and weapons, alleging that the deal negotiated under its rule was much cheaper than the contract signed by the Modi Government
The Government has been refusing to give an item-wise cost and other details about the deal in Parliament citing confidentiality provisions of a 2008 Indo-France pact.
The UPA Government had negotiated a USD 10.2 billion deal for the 126 jets. However, the deal could not be finalised.
Will keep borders safe, unprovoked attacks won’t go unpunished: DM