New Delhi: Once again, the tumultuous border between India and Pakistan is bleeding, and it is creating news around the world. The origins of the current conflict, still contained to the skirmishes along a particular stretch of the border, is not clear as both sides have accused each other of breaking the rules of the ceasefire that has held for a decade. India Thursday rejected Pakistan’s demand that the UN be asked to probe allegations that Pakistani troops killed and beheaded two Indian soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir as Indian political parties called for “tough” action against Pakistan.
“That (Pakistan’s) demand is rejected out of hand. We will not internationalise the issue nor go to the United Nations,” Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
He said the cabinet committee on security was briefed about the Tuesday killings near the Line of Control (LoC).
“Our report is that the Indian forces did not violate the ceasefire (in place in LoC since 203),” he said.
In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar reiterated the demand for a third party enquiry into ceasefire violations on the LoC.
Khar, addressing a news conference, said Islamabad abides by the 2003 ceasefire. She added that Pakistan has also contacted UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to probe the killing of one of its soldiers Jan 6 in alleged firing by Indian troops. She had a day ago denied the killing of Indian soldiers was a “tit-for-tat” reaction.
According to Radio Pakistan, a Pakistani soldier was killed Thursday when “Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing at Tatta Pani Sector in Kotli today”.
Hamid Mir of Geo TV said in a tweet: “Tatta Pani sector of Kashmir became another battlefield, one Pakistani soldier Havaldar Mohyudin martyred by Indian shelling.”
India’s Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the heightened border tensions will not to come in the way of a liberalized visa agreement between India and Pakistan.
“The visa agreement (inked last year) will be carried out as scheduled, there is no rethink on it,” Shinde told reporters.
National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon noted that ceasefire violations by Pakistan on the LoC had increased last year. “There has been an increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan and in infiltration attempts in 2012 over 2011.”
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said it would organize nation-wide protests Friday over the killings of the two soldiers.
“People are very angry over this matter,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman said, adding: “We hold the Pakistan government and army accountable for breaking the ceasefire.”
“We should give proof, name and shame Pakistan for having done this… we can’t afford to have our goodwill misused,” she added.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said the party would support the UPA government if it takes “tough” decisions against Pakistan for the killings.
Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray demanded that India should “take revenge” against Pakistan for the brutal killing of the two soldiers.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati asked the government to take “strong action” to ensure that such brutalities are not repeated and that India-Pakistan relations did not suffer.
The US has asked India and Pakistan to talk to each other to improve relations.
“We’re urging both sides to take steps to end the violence. We continue to strongly support any efforts to improve relations between the two countries,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.
The UNMOGIP has asked India and Pakistan to respect the ceasefire and de-escalate tensions. The UNMOGIP said it has received an official complaint from the Pakistan Army to probe the Jan 6 killing of a Pakistani soldier. But Martin Nesirky, spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said no official complaint had been from India or Pakistan on the second “alleged incident” of Jan 8 for a probe.
Indian Army sources have denied a media report linking the current border skirmishes to an elderly Kashmiri woman crossing into Pakistani Kashmir to be with her children. The sources also denied the Indian Army had transgressed the LoC on Jan 6, and said soldiers had only carried out “controlled retaliation” in response to a ceasefire violation by Pakistan.
Earlier, the Indian Army on Wednesday said both the soldiers killed during an attack by Pakistani troops across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir were decapitated and that one severed head was yet to be recovered.
“The bodies of two soldiers were brutalised — one head was severed and another body was beheaded… It (the head of one of jawan) has not being recovered — probably they have taken it along with them”, deputy commander of the 25 Division Brigadier J K Tiwari told reporters in Rajouri.
According to Army sources in Delhi, the Pakistan army regulars who were involved in the attack wore black uniforms and they had slit the throats of both the soldiers in a brutal manner and that the bodies were badly mutilated.
Giving details about the incident, Tiwari said eight soldiers belonging to the 13 Rajputana Rifles were carrying out area domination patrolling (ADP) in two escort parties including 6 jawans on back side and two on the front about 600 metres inside the LoC.
Army officials said the fence on the LoC in that particular area in Krishna Ghati is built 2 Kms inside Indian territory and the Pakistani troops did not have to cross the obstacle to enter Indian territory.
Then men wearing black clothes, suspected to be from the Pakistani special forces, took benefit of the thick fog and dense forests and laid ambush, Tiwari said, adding that they fired on patrol party and fire fight continued for 30 minutes. There were also reports that the Pakistani troops belonged to 29 Baloch regiment.
“After the firing stopped, patrol parties moved ahead and came acoss the two dead jawans in a mutilated condition”, he said. The incident took place near the Sona Gali area close to the LoC.
The Mendhar area has been the hub of ceasefire violations and cross-border firings in the last one year with close to 90 such incidents.
The area is known as the Barasingha battalion area and is under the overall command of the 10 brigade of the Indian Army.
Pakistani military has rejected India’s contention that its troops had attacked an Indian patrol and killed two soldiers, claiming that it had carried out ground verification and “found nothing of this sort happened.”
The Pakistani side conveyed this during a phone conversation between the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two sides.
A Pakistani military official, who did not want to be named, said Pakistan’s DGMO Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem talked to his Indian counterpart Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia on a hotline and rejected the Indian army’s “allegations of cross-LoC firing by Pakistani troops and killing any Indian soldier.”
“The Indian authorities were informed that Pakistan has carried out ground verification and checked and found nothing of this sort happened as is being alleged by India,” the military official said.
“It is mere propaganda by the Indian army,” the official claimed.
Despite the shrill calls for revenge and probes, both sides are maintaining a level of sanity that may lead to a cooling down of the situation soon.