- Title: INDIA: INDIA CONTINUES OFFENSIVE AGAINST KASHMIR INFILTRATORS
- Date: 30th May 1999
- Summary: VARIOUS OF FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS (2 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 26th August 2014 18:33
- Location: KARGIL, JAMMU AND KASHMIR, BHATINDA, PUNJAB, NEW DELHI, INDIA/ ATHMUQAM, NEELAM VALLEY, 1 1/2 KMS FROM LINE OF CONTROL, PAKISTANI SIDE OF KASHMIR
- Country: India
- Topics: War / Fighting
- Reuters ID: LVA2JYJP9NQWFY6VTZECKM57SEZF
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: India is continuing its offensive against intruders in Kashmir, as its Defence Minister George Fernandes visits the frontline areas of Kargil.
India said on Sunday (May 30) guerrillas holed up in northern Kashmir heights had been pushed back toward a demarcation line with Pakistan, and vowed to press on with the largest offensive in the Himalayan region in nearly three decades.
"There is no let up in the air operation, yesterday the airforce carried a large reconnaissance programme," said Defence Minister George Fernandes, during a visit to frontline areas of Kargil on Sunday (May 30).
Hundreds of heavily armed infiltrators had taken positions in the Kargil, Drass and Batalik areas that overlook a key highway linking India's Kashmir Valley with the mountainous Ladakh area.
Indian commanders said air attacks were continuing on what New Delhi says are Pakistan-backed infiltrators dug in near the military control line.No details were offered.
Officials said the airport in Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir, had been opened for civilian traffic on Sunday.The airport had been closed since Wednesday when New Delhi ordered air raids on the intruders.
Pakistan said it downed the jets after they strayed into Pakistani airspace and it will not apologise for having done so.
India has said the planes were in its territory and on Sunday repeated its allegation that one pilot who had ejected from his jet was shot dead after he landed across the line of control.
Indian officials said a post-mortem on Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja showed he had been shot dead after he had ejected.His body was returned by Pakistan on Friday, the day after his MiG-21 was downed.
Ahuja was cremated on Sunday with full military honour in his home town of Bhatinda in the northern state of Punjab.
Ahuja, a senior air force pilot, went to the aid of another pilot, Flight Lieutenant K.Nachiketa, whose MiG-27 fighter went down during a mission against the militants in the Kargil area.
India says Nachiketa's jet crashed after an engine flame-out and Ahuja's jet was downed by a Pakistani missile.
The helicopter was brought down by a Stinger missile fired by the intruders.
Meanwhile, Nachiketa's sister said it was his birthday on Sunday and she wants to see her brother back.
"I want him back as soon as possible and I am praying for that," Tridhandhya, the younger sister of Nachiketa said.
As the fighting continued, India said it was considering a Pakistani proposal for a visit by Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz early this week to defuse the crisis, but no dates had been set.
Indian military experts said it would take some time to completely oust the guerrillas from the ridges and mountain folds.
But the army officials claimed initial successes.
"The intruders are finding it extremely difficult in some of its isolated positions.We are carrying out very steady, deliberate and determined operation to clear these intruders and evict them from the positions they have occupied,"
Major-General J.J.Singh said at a briefing, adding that all of the intrusions had been contained.
Meanwhile, the number of people fleeing the Neelum valley has increased in recent weeks due to constant Indian shelling over the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed Himalayan region between India and Pakistan.
Firing in the Neelum valley has caused residents to abandon their homes and seek refuge in forests farther away from the line.
Despite the difficulties, many villages have vowed to defend themselves.
Pakistani and Indian soldiers are almost eyeball-to-eyeball across the U.N.-monitored 720-km (450-mile) line that runs from east to west through the peaks and valleys of the Himalayas.
Pakistani military officials say up to 30,000 people live between Indian bunkers and Pakistani positions.
Though the present hot spot is the Kargil and Drass sector 200 km east of Neelum valley, residents in the valley say life is not safe because of the constant shelling.
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