India sets August date for clean Kargil
BJP scoffs at mediation talk
Govt firm face for CMs
Army offers perks to fill ranks
World Bank lifts India loan ban
Sonia trains Kargil lapse gun on govt

July 6 
Intruders mounted a counter-attack on Tiger Hill early this morning only to be beaten back by the Indian army, confirming the military establishment?s apprehensions about an early withdrawal.

The government seems to be looking at a time-frame of about a month. The Cabinet Committee on security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, is believed to have set a tentative deadline of end-July or early-August for the pushback of intruders from all sub-sectors of Kargil.

This will help a triumphant Vajpayee address the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on August 15.

While repulsing the Pakistani counter-offensive on the north-western flank of Tiger Hill, Indian forces came under heavy sniper fire. Though there is no official confirmation, the Indian toll in the operation since the night of July 2 is estimated to be 25.

The army is believed to have collected intelligence that besides the units of the Northern Light Infantry, Pakistan had also pushed in personnel of the Chitral Scouts.

Indian artillery pounded Kaksar. An infantry assault to capture Bajrang post at 16,000 feet seemed likely. The Four Jats regiment has laid siege to Bajrang since one of its officers, Lieutenant Saurabh Kalia, was killed in May.

The army appears to have trained its guns on the Batalik sub-sector. Army spokesperson Col Bikram Singh said troops recaptured Khalubar, Point 4812 and Dog Hill peak over yesterday and this afternoon, killing 49 Pakistani soldiers and recovering documents which went a step further in proving the presence of Pakistani army regulars in Kargil.

Khalubar, described as a dominating feature, was recaptured early today after fierce fighting began yesterday. Reports from the front said Indian artillery and mortar shelling destroyed 43 sangars (bunkers made of mud and reinforced with boulders) on the slopes of the peak in the Khalubar operation.

Col Singh said infantry troops have advanced further north where hand-to-hand combat continues in the backdrop of intense shelling by both sides.

It was one of those rare occasions in Kargil when an officer of the rank of Colonel personally led the attack on Khalubar. The army spokesman said that armed with an assault rifle, Col Lalit Rai, the commanding officer of a battalion of the Gorkha Rifles, led the attack although he was wounded on July 4. ?He has shown exemplary courage and has refused to be relieved,? the spokesman said.

During the charge on Khalubar, 23 Pakistani soldiers were killed. The Indians suffered three casualties. In the mopping-up operations, two heavy weapons ? a 12.7 mm and a 14.5 calibre gun ? were recovered along with ammunition and documents belonging to soldiers of the Pakistani 5th Northern Light Infantry. A closer search of the peak revealed that the Pakistan army had left behind the bullet-ridden bodies of 11 of their colleagues.

Although the Indian Air Force could not fly any sorties today because of poor weather, infantry troops continued their surge in Batalik. Col Singh said even while the fight for Khalubar was on, a battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry made an assault on Point 4812 on the night of July 5 and recaptured the feature this afternoon.

He added that the same battalion had also wrested back Point 5203 on June 11 from the Pakistani intruders. Preliminary reports indicate that 26 Pakistani soldiers were killed in the fight for Point 4812. Three Indian infantrymen were killed.

Dog Hill, to the west of Point 5000, was also recovered. Six Pakistani soldiers were killed and two heavy machine guns and two G-3 rifles, along with several rounds of ammunition, were recovered by soldiers of the Ladakh Scouts, who led the charge.    

New Delhi, July 6 
The BJP today lashed out at the Left parties for saying the joint statement issued by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President Bill Clinton amounted to ??third-party intervention??.

Describing the Left charge as ??absurd??, BJP spokesman Narendra Modi said: ??The joint statement makes it abundantly clear that all issues between India and Pakistan have to be resolved through ?bilateral dialogue?. In any event, the Vajpayee government has categorically ruled out mediation or intervention in any form by any third party.??

Modi reiterated that the military action to evict the intruders will continue until there was evidence that Pakistan had begun pulling out the forces.

Scoffing at the Left charge, Modi said: ??In 1971, when Mrs Indira Gandhi went all over the world, was she seeking international mediation? She was not. Similarly, the question of international mediation or intervention in 1999 does not arise.??

Modi accused the Left and the Congress of indulging in ??cheap partisan politics at a time when the entire nation is one on achieving the objective of throwing out the Pakistani intruders??.

He said the ??success?? of India?s diplomacy had ??added to India?s stature??. ??Rather than hail this success, the communists and the Congress are continuing to sing the same discordant tune of berating the government while ignoring Pakistan?s perfidy,?? he added.    

New Delhi, July 6 
Having denied a special Rajya Sabha session to the Opposition, the BJP government is taking every step to make a strong point at tomorrow?s chief ministers? meet to discuss Kargil. Addressing the meeting, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will reiterate his government?s commitment to free every inch of Indian territory of intruders and make a promise that military operations will continue till the LoC is reached in every Kargil sub-sector.

There is going to be no reference to the safe passage formula or to the intelligence failure which led to the intrusions in the first place. If grilled on safe passage, Vajpayee will insist in case the Pakistani regulars do not leave on their own, they will have to face the Indian army: there is no question of ensuring they leave unharmed. What he may not say in so many words but allude to is that there are several routes still open between the occupied areas and the LoC, and the Pakistanis can make use of these channels to return without facing Indian fire.

But the home and defence ministries are confident that none of the chief ministers will be overtly critical. West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, one of the most vocal critics of the saffron regime, has already made several strong statements supporting the government?s actions.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has supported the BJP stand on not holding the Rajya Sabha session on Kargil and ridiculed the Congress for demanding the session.

The BJP, however, does not expect the Congress chief ministers to ?politicise? the issue by adopting a critical standpoint at this stage.

The Centre, though, may come in for criticism from an unlikely quarter: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, who is likely to castigate the BJP government for not allowing Indian forces to cross the Line of Control, if his recent speeches are anything to go by.

At a public meeting on Monday, Kalyan Singh had said: ?Pakistan, by making a stupid mistake, has given us (the) chance to change geography. It is the government?s failure that the armed forces have not been allowed to cross the LOC. Give them seven days and they will recapture Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and hoist the Indian flag there.?

?Why, our brave soldiers can even march up to Lahore,? he had added.

At the chief ministers? meet, a display of captured arms and sensitive documents has been planned. The Army will be distributing its recently published documents of direct participation by Pakistani regulars, including maps found in the possession of dead Pakistani soldiers.    

New Delhi, July 6 
A special allowance package is being worked out for those serving in Kargil and those who will serve there later.

The defence establishment hopes this package will attract junior officers like lieutenants, captains and majors who are expected to serve in Kargil for some time now even after the conflict is resolved.

Defence sources said this decision is the beginning of a composite hike being planned for the army. Already, pension rates for all categories of army personnel have been hiked, mainly to prevent early retirement of officers.

?It is a Siachen-like high-altitude allowance that will be given to soldiers who have fought in Kargil and whose services will be required in the terrain later,? an official said.

He said there would now be perennial troop presence in Kargil and a higher allowance is the only way to lure personnel to accept such difficult assignments.

Earlier, chief of army staff General V.P. Malik had said surveillance equipment would be purchased to be used extensively in Kargil. But now it appears that with technology not readily available, the army headquarters will post substantial manpower in Kargil as they have done in Siachen for 15 years.

This allowance package will mean an immediate hike of Rs 4,000 at the junior officer level. The same allowance is already being received by soldiers and officers serving in Siachen or those involved in counter-insurgency operations in various states.

Besides, since the number of personnel to be posted in Kargil will be quite high, the allowance will cover a large number of army staff.

This is the first such sop in form of a multi-incentive package being planned to attract army volunteers.

Of late, there has been a slump in recruitment, especially at the officer level. The army has an authorised officer strength of about 44,000, of whom 33,000 are supposed to be at the junior-most ranks of lieutenants, captains and majors.

But now there are 11,000 vacancies in these three categories and not many are applying because of the meagre pay packets.

The 30 officers who have died during the ongoing conflict are all below the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Their deaths show the kind of crucial role they are expected to play.

There is a growing belief in defence circles that the Kargil conflict has brought the army closer to the common man.

After all, this is the first major combat after 28 years and the present generation of Indians had no idea of the army?s role in the nation?s security.

There is hope that this conflict will inspire youth to join the army and the recruitment rallies will yield better results. Incentives like the Kargil allowance will help bring in more talents to join the officer cadres.    

New Delhi, July 6 
India today secured a $386-million World Bank loan, its first since economic sanctions were imposed after the Pokhran tests in May last year.

Agreements were signed today for a $ 300-million loan for an integrated women and child development project covering five states and another $ 86 million for a Rajasthan district primary education project.

The women and child development project will be implemented in Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh for five years.

The total cost of the project is $422 million. While $300 million of it will come as interest-free loan, the rest ? $122.3 million ? will be contributed by the Centre and the states.

The agreements were signed by country director of the World Bank Edwin Lim and additional secretary in finance ministry V. Govindrajan.

The World Bank loan to improve the social sector in Andhra Pradesh was already in the pipeline when sanctions were imposed, an official said. It was not negotiated, he added.

The project aims to improve the nutrition and health status of women and pre-school children by improving the quality, impact and cost-effectiveness of integrated child development services project (ICDS).

According to the World Bank document released on the occasion, the design of the current project has taken into account a number of key constraints that have affected the whole social sector portfolio in India.    

Muzaffarpur, July 6 
Kicking off her party?s poll campaign in Bihar today, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said the Centre should explain to the people what led to the lapse of security which helped intruders to cross the Line of Control. ?The safety and security of our borders are related to the country?s development and progress. It appears that the Centre had no knowledge of what was happening there. They did not bother to find out if there was any lapse,? she told the huge gathering here.

She said if the government had been aware of the development, why did it not raise the issue in Parliament. Why did the government not take any action to forestall this crisis, she asked. The Congress chief chose this city to formally start her campaign because Rashtriya Janata Dal president Laloo Prasad Yadav agreed to forgo this constituency to the Congress as part of an electoral adjustment. Lashing out at the BJP-led government, she said instability in the country caused by a coalition government formed out of unprincipled political conglomeration has been telling on the country?s development prospect. ?

Last few years, quite a number of governments came to power and collapsed prematurely. Future sometimes looks bleak. But it is the voters who can bring about change by voting to power the right party,? she said. Hardselling Congress by citing its past experience in ruling the country, she said no other party today can match its efficiency and orientation to provide stable government.

Referring to the controversy about her origin, Sonia Gandhi said some people had tried to point fingers at her because she tried to put the party back on rail. ?I can tell you that however hard they tried, I would continue to work for the restoration of the party?s strength,? she said. Promising several sops for the voters, she said if her party wins, she will take special interest in the state?s development. ?Even in our election manifesto, we have made special provision for Bihar,? she announced.    


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