India flashes global alert on Kargil
Regulars are fighting, admits Pak
A week of battle nears its peak
Aussies in final after tied match
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, June 17 
India today made it clear that Islamabad, and not New Delhi, should be held responsible if there is an escalation of tension along the Line of Control (LoC). It urged the international community to pressure Pakistan to withdraw the intruders from Kargil and restore status quo ante on the LoC.

The Indian position was put forward at a meeting between foreign secretary K. Raghunath and the heads of missions of European Union countries. Raghunath also stressed that India was not willing to hold any more talks with Pakistan till it withdraws all intruders.

Indicating that India is not foreclosing its options about crossing over the LoC, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee said at his Race Course Road residence: ?The first priority now is to push back the intruders and after regaining the territory captured by them, the government will decide its next move.?

The remarks were made when he was asked why India was not crossing the LoC even though Pakistan had already violated it.

The EU?s position on the Kargil crisis is similar to that of the US. It is of the view that Pakistan started the crisis by sending intruders into Kargil, violating the LoC agreed between the South Asian neighbours. The EU feels that both sides should show restraint and Pakistan should withdraw its troops to restore normality. India?s briefing today to the EU members was the second of its kind since the Kargil crisis erupted late last month. Its aim was clearly to ensure that key European nations do not lose sight of the real problem and get confused by the Pakistani propaganda.

?The problem in the present crisis is not over Kashmir but Kargil,? Raghunath told his EU guests. Pakistani leaders have been trying to argue that the Kargil issue was part of the unsolved Kashmir problem.

The Indian foreign secretary?s remarks gather significance in view of the British Prime Minister?s stand on the issue. Tony Blair said yesterday in London that while the UK was urging both India and Pakistan to resolve their differences, ?we know that the source of those differences is Kashmir?.

He, however, stressed the need for the two countries to work out a solution ?in the interests of everybody?. The representative of the British government was present at today?s briefing.

Russia continued to maintain pressure on Pakistan, expressing deep concern over the crisis, and called on Islamabad to stop infringing bilateral agreements on Kashmir. ?The Russian side is alarmed by the tension along the LoC in Kashmir, caused first of all by armed groups infiltrating the Indian side of Kashmir from Pakistan,? a foreign ministry statement said.

Referring to last week?s talks between foreign minister Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz, the Indian foreign secretary said that at the meeting, Pakistan denied its involvement in the armed intrusion in Kargil but India claims it has evidence to the contrary.

To prove the extent of Pakistan?s violent intent, Raghunath referred to the mutilated bodies of the Indian soldiers who were in Pakistani custody and handed over to New Delhi last week.

He pointed out that the injuries showed that they were inflicted on them after they were killed. He said his main aim was to tell the international community how Pakistan was violating every international norm and code of conduct.

?I want you to show some understanding and realise what is at stake in this whole Kargil affair,? he was reported to have told the EU leaders.

India has already raised the issue of the soldiers? mutilation with Pakistan. It has lodged a protest by summoning Pakistani deputy high commissioner in New Delhi, Akbar Zeb.    

Islamabad, June 17 
Contradicting weeks of Pakistani denials, a military leader here acknowledged that Pakistani soldiers have been deeply involved all along in heavy fighting with India that started early last month.

The admission came as military and diplomatic sources reported heavy troop movements along the Indo-Pakistani border, suggesting the two sides may be preparing for a larger war.

Pakistani Brigadier Rashid Qureshi said fighting with India began last month when Pakistani troops seized strategic posts along the mountainous border. He insisted that Pakistani troops had not crossed into Indian territory. He also said Indian troops were suffering heavy casualties as they tried to push Pakistani soldiers off the peaks.

?The Indians are fighting the Pakistanis who seized the commanding heights,? Qureshi said. ?If we see the Indians, we shoot them. If they see us, they shoot us.?

Qureshi?s statement marked the first public admission that Pakistani troops are deeply involved in the fighting. Until Wednesday, Pakistan?s leaders had insisted that the Indians were battling a group of home-grown guerrillas seeking independence for Kashmir.

The Pakistanis had said their troops had only fired on Indian soldiers along the border in self-defence.

India has charged Pakistan with invading its territory. Three Western diplomats, who requested anonymity, backed up India?s version of events, saying Pakistani soldiers on snowmobiles seized Indian posts atop the high mountain peaks before the winter snows melted.

The Western diplomats and Pakistani officials reported the movement of thousands of troops on both sides of the border. The Pakistanis said they were digging in for an Indian offensive. ?The threat is real,? said Qureshi. ?We are taking appropriate measures to defend ourselves.?

Qureshi said Pakistani troops had established posts on a stretch of the Line of Control that neither side had occupied before. He said no Pakistani troops had crossed the LoC and that Kashmiri guerrillas were operating in India independent of the Pakistani forces.

?The decision was made to occupy posts on the Line of Control that did not exist before,? the brigadier said. ?If we didn?t occupy those posts, the Indians would have occupied them.?

Contradicting Qureshi?s statement that the posts had never been occupied, two of the Western diplomats said Pakistani military engineers quietly took over posts that Indian soldiers had abandoned last fall in anticipation of the harsh winter.

One Western diplomat who requested anonymity said the danger of a wider war could increase sharply over the next few weeks with the arrival of the annual monsoon. The snow, rain and mud could stall Indian military efforts in the region, the diplomat said, and in their frustration the Indians might decide to hit Pakistan somewhere else.

Los Angeles Times-Washington Post news service    

The bombardment began a little after six. A seductive dusk was slowly setting over the Drass valley and as the sky darkened, shade by shade, sounds of war took over. Peak 5140, still out of reach of Indian forces, was wrapped in a hail of artillery and mortar fire. Guns were blasting off from a dozen positions in the valley. And their ballast was thudding into the peak. Plumes of smoke rose from it, dissipating into the fading evening light.

The battle to take 5140 was getting intense. Infantry batches had captured a crooked bump to the left of the peak and were closing in. On the reach to the peak?s right, more artillery and mortar fire was landing. Often, the boom of artillery was peppered by bursts of distant machine gun fire, perhaps from infantry troops who had clawed closer to the peak and had the enemy in their sight. These troops were also directing artillery guns in the valley on radio and seeking bombardment on enemy bunkers. ?We are close to taking 5140,? said a soldier who had watched the week-long battle. ?The enemy is very well-entrenched in deep bunkers and it will take sustained artillery fire to shake him before infantry troops move in for a final assault.?

But tonight, the adjoining Tololing peak, which Indian troops took over early on Sunday morning, was under belligerent counter-bombardment too. Pakistani artillery was raining shells with renewed intensity on Indian troops trying to consolidate their victory on the peak.

We were outside a bunker at the Drass army base watching the shelling and counter-shelling. As it grew colder and windier and darker, the angry argument between the mountains intensified. Gunfire flickered on the peaks; troops were exchanging machine gun bursts and the artillery thundered like railroad. A shell flew into the flanks of 5140.

The battle for the peaks that overlook National Highway 1A is reaching a fiery denouement as Indian troops mount a final push to knock the intruders off their perches. While the battle for 5140 raged tonight, army commanders finalised plans to take over Tiger Hill which lies to the southwest of 5140. Bofors gun units have been shuffled around in the Drass valley and positioned in new mountain lees for vantage to pound Tiger Hill.

?Our troops are within a kilometre of Tiger Hill peak,? said a radio operator quoting an observation post officer who is waiting with infantry batches to storm Tiger Hill.

All day today, infantry troops were seen moving to and down from the embattled peaks around the Drass valley. One such group was picking up its last supplies of matchboxes and bidis and shaving gear before trudging up to the frontier in the dark.

?We are waiting for war to be declared. So we can show the enemy what a heavy hand we can use,? said one of the troop commanders. ?Now that we are battling with them let us go the whole hog.?

Further down the road to Drass was a platoon of machine gun carrying troops returning to base after three days of fighting on the heights.

They looked weary but not defeated. They smiled and waved to passers-by who cared to smile and wave at them.

As night fell, there was a lull in the shelling on 5140. Perhaps the infantrymen have sought a break from artillery fire so they could move closer to the enemy bunkers and destroy them on the way to the top.

As the battle gains gear, infantry units from the peaks have been using increasingly lethal explosives on the enemy. Grenades are not the staple bunker-breakers, flame-throwers and Milan anti-tank missiles are.

?These fellows should know what they are up against,? said a soldier bunkered in the eerie night.

?They have been mutilating the bodies of our troops and they deserve some deadly fire from us.? The lull, he assured, would die soon.

?In Drass, the nights are like Diwali. We only hope the shells don?t land too close to you.?

The anachronistic sparrows of the army base idyll were gone, dogs barked and conversation was a hubbub in the dimly lit bunker.    

June 17 
No matter how bad the day in office, Hansie Cronje had never looked devastated. At Edgbaston, it was different. Cronje was distraught, close to tears.

Yet, three balls into the final over (which began with South Africa requiring nine runs and Australia one wicket) of the most pulsating semi-final anywhere, Cronje and all of South Africa surely had different emotions.

Two typically mighty Lance Klusener blows, after all, had brought them to within one run of their first-ever World Cup final. If anything, it?s then that nerves had to be kept in check.

The Australians held theirs; South Africa cracked.

Technically, the game was tied ? 213 for either team. But Australia made their fourth final (second in succession) by having finished ahead in the Super Six.

With two balls remaining, should Klusener have darted for a single that had risk written all over? Shouldn?t Allan Donald have been backing-up?

The questions will probably be asked till the next World Cup, incidentally in South Africa (2003).What will also be asked, perhaps forever, is whether such matches should actually see a loser? ?Feel sorry for South Africa, but I?m happy we are there (in the final). It was important to hold one?s nerves... We managed,? was cool-as-cucumber Steve Waugh?s reaction. Yes, yet again, he led from the front.

Man of the Match Shane Warne (four for 29) had that disbelieving look: ?It was all or nothing for us... Yes, I did get fired up and had to calm myself... It?s unbelievable, don?t know how we did it...?

It was Warne?s introduction in the 11th over (43 for no loss) that gave Australia a toe-hold. Till then, they had lined up something unpalatable for the night: Having to eat their own words.

Only Warne could have ensured the fare was one of their choice, not forced down their throat. He did, with three wickets in his first three overs. Most relieved will probably be Paul Reiffel, who not only dropped Klusener, but conceded six runs when even one was worth a hundred.

Usually, it doesn?t pay taking South Africa lightly; pays even less to provoke them. Indeed, the Australians who dismissed South Africa as ?chokers? ? never mind that the comment was first made two seasons ago ? will be particular with words the next time. They did get away with it, but only just.

Till Warne spun devastation, South Africa seemed to have done much to set up a Sunday date with Pakistan, at Lord?s: Bowling out Australia for 213 (49.2 overs), leaving their batsmen with a reasonable ask of 4.28. But, sadly, coach Bob Woolmer has been denied the satisfaction of signing off on a high.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. A few spells of light rain with one or two shower or thunder showers.
Temperature: Maximum 31.5?C (3?C below normal)
Minimum 26.3?C (1?C below normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 95% Minimum 80%
Rainfall:14.3 mm
Sunset: 6.20 pm Sunrise: 4.54 am    

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