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Pakistan retreats; Indian election dates announced

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NEW DELHI: Pakistan agreed yesterday to withdraw its troops from Kashmir thus partially bringing down the curtains on a conflict that has claimed more than 1100 lives of Indian soldiers and Pakistani-backed intruders in just two months. The Pakistani supporters suffered almost twice as many casualties as the Indian army, which lost 398 soldiers as against 691 Pakistanis.

The Pakistani?s have till 16 July to clear the Kargil sector and Indian defence forces have committed not to fire at the retreating intruders or carry out air strikes. But senior Indian army personnel have said that they will not desist from attacking intruders who continue to stay on in Indian territory after the 16 July deadline.

While making the announcement to the nation that the intrusions into Indian territory were being stopped, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff said that war was not a solution to settle the disagreements between the two nations and called Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to reach a favourable settlement. He, however, added that the Pakistan government would continue to support terrorist organisations, which have illegally occupied Indian territory.

Sharif, under intense pressure from the Bill Clinton administration to withdraw his troops, finally told the reluctant terrorist organisations to back off yesterday. And there were signs of withdrawal from some sectors like Kaksar and Mushkoh valley, while fighting erupted in some other sectors in the Kashmir region. Some terrorist units made it clear that any agreement between Shariff and Bill Clinton will not be respected by them and that they would continue to battle Indian troops for the land they consider their's.

Vjapayee announced that the operation to weed out infiltrators has not ended and that the war will continue should Pakistan not stick to its commitments. Over last week Indian armed forces had beaten back the invaders close to the Line of Control and had recaptured almost all that it had ceded to Pakistani infiltrators.

Meanwhile speculation relating to the elections was put to rest with the announcement of the dates when the country would go to the polls. The Election Commission announced a five-phase schedule starting 4 September and ending on 1 October with the results being declared on 6 October. Polling is to be held on 4, 11, 17 and 24 September and 1 October.

With the election dates being announced, it is quite unlikely the caretaker government will announce any major policy changes under the Election Commission?s election code. Hence DTH wannabes will likely have to wait for at least another six months before the next government gets enough will to clear broadcasting regulations and the ban on DTH.

However, the government could still hurl a surprise as it did when the Union Cabinet cleared proposals for the operation of FM radio services by private companies in India. Under these, no foreign equity is to be allowed to be invested in radio firms with each applicant having a capital adequacy of Rs 30 million and a working capital limit of Rs 20 million apart from the licence fee of a minimum of Rs 12.5 million. This is to be invested in radio transmitters and studios. The government has not laid down any cross media restrictions, thus allowing foreign television channels with registered Indian companies a chance to foray into the new FM radio medium.

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