No unprovoked attack from across border shall go unanswered: Sitharaman

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Press Trust of India
NEW DELHI, JUN 05:
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the Army will continue to respect the ongoing Ramzan ceasefire in the northern state of 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.
Sitharaman, addressing a press conference on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, 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.
The minister 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, the defence minister 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
No unprovoked …..
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 he 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 the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat and top brass of the force were consulted before the government decided to allow civilian access to roads in military cantonments across the country.
The minister was speaking in the backdrop of a country-wide signature campaign against the government decision launched by wives of Army officers.
At a press conference, Sitharaman said a total of 850 roads were closed in various cantonments, out of which 119 were blocked without following laid down procedures and now some of them have been opened.
The Defence Ministry last month had decided to allow civilian access to the roads in 62 cantonments after Sitharaman held a meeting on May 4 with a group of MPs, elected office-bearers of cantonment boards and Army officials.
A large section of Army officials and their families have expressed strong reservations over the decision to reopen all roads in cantonments to civilians, citing security concerns. Veterans and wives of armed forces personnel have been agitating on the issue.
“119 roads were blocked without following laid down procedure. Out of them 80 roads have been opened while 24 are remaining closed. We have partially opened 15 roads,” she said.
“I met the wives of the Armed Forces personnel and heard their concerns which were largely about the security. I fully appreciate that,” she said.
Sitharaman said the defence ministry held a series of meetings with all stakeholders including the Army before deciding to open up the roads for civilians.
The defence minister said that before the May 4 meeting with elected representatives, she held four meetings with senior Army officials.
She said five other meetings were held some including with Gen Rawat and Vice Chief of the Army Staff on the the issue.
“The order by the ministry of defence addresses traffic related issues. Places where unit lines exist or where families of our servicemen are living, we are cautious about its security,” said Sitharaman.
She said, “If you (army) decide to close the roads based on intelligence input, you are welcome to do so. But follow due procedure.”
A country-wide signature campaign against the government decision has been launched by wives of Army officers. They say they would meet the defence minister urging her to reverse the cantonment board decision.

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