The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fernandes peace pledge

New Delhi, Oct. 30: Defence minister George Fernandes, pilloried by Pakistan for having said last week that the Centre’s package of proposals to improve ties was a “last option”, today said “we shall make all possible efforts to make (the Prime Minister’s initiative) a success”.

Speaking at a closed-door session to senior officers at the naval commanders’ conference, Fernandes said “the problem of terrorism is likely to persist and we should be prepared to deal with it effectively”, according to a defence ministry statement.

On another platform, the defence minister said Pakistan was “too small a country to be afraid of”. In an interview for a television programme, Fernandes said: “Pakistan cannot be, can never be, a threat to India.”

At the navy conference, the defence minister said the Centre was working to give all assistance to increase the number of platforms (warships, aircraft carriers and other vessels) with the navy. During the 10-month long stand-off with Pakistan, called Operation Parakram, the navy was prepared even though there was no active combat.

The Indian Navy was getting international acclaim and this was borne out by requests from several countries for joint exercises, the defence ministry statement quoted Fernandes. Among others, the navy would soon conduct joint exercises with China.

In the television interview, Fernandes said it was difficult to come to a conclusion on the level of militancy in Kashmir.

“You can’t say that today it is at a certain level because tomorrow it could be at another level. There are ups and downs but nothing that is meaningful,” he said.

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