Tough talking India lodges protest with Pakistan (Evening Lead)

Syndicated from IANS | Published on Mon, Jan 14 2013 18:57 IST | 7 Views | Add comment
New Delhi/Jammu, Jan 14

India Monday took a tough stance against Pakistan over the killing and mutilation of two of its soldiers with its army chief asserting that his forces "reserve the right to retaliate" and a strong protest being lodged at the flag meeting along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district.

Pakistan denied the charge, news reports said.

The Jan 8 killing of Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh and Lance Naik Hemraj - who was decapitated - in the Mendhar sector in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops was a "gruesome and an unpardonable act", army chief General Bikram Singh declared.

He also termed as "pre-planned and pre-meditated" Pakistan's aggression along the LoC, which divides in Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

The tough talking army chief said it was possible that Pakistan Army used terrorists as it had done in the past.

"The firing from Pakistan is a manifestation of their frustration ...Their troops are not moving forward but we are watching," he said.

"What they (Pakistan) have done is against the ethics of soldiering. My heart goes out to the families of soldiers who were killed and whose bodies were mutilated. It's a gruesome and unpardonable act. Beheading of soldiers is not acceptable," Gen. Bikram Singh told reporters here on the eve of Army Day.

"We will uphold the ceasefire as long as it is maintained. We reserve the right to retaliate at the time and place of our choosing."

He added that pressure needed to be exerted on Pakistan so the severed head of Hemraj was returned.

In response to a question, he said it had to be taken up at the government level.

"This has to be done through diplomatic levels," he said.

Hemraj's wife has been fasting in her village near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, demanding that the severed head of her husband be handed over to the family.

While Gen. Bikram Singh was talking to media, the Indian and Pakistani armies were holding a brigadier level "flag meeting" along LoC at Chakan da Bagh in Poonch.

The hour-long meeting, which started at 1 p.m., saw the Indian side lodge a "strong protest with Pakistan over its soldiers intruding into Indian side and brutally killing two of its soldiers in Sona Gali area of Mendhar sector on Jan 8 and repeated violations of ceasefire by Pakistan on the LoC", a source said.

The sources said the Indian Army also demanded the severed head. The Indian side also underlined the need for restoring confidence building measures (CBMs) across the LoC.

Ten ceasefire violations by Pakistan have taken place this year; in 2012, the number was 117 and 61 in 2011. The firing by Pakistan across the LoC, which divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, is mainly to provide cover to infiltrating militants, it is believed.

Cross-LoC trade, taking place four days a week from Tuesday to Friday, has halted since Wednesday as Pakistan did not open the LoC gates. The cross-LoC bus carrying passengers to and fro Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan administered Kashmir once a week on Mondays also did not ply.

Border tensions between India and Pakistan have risen sharply since the Jan 6 death of a Pakistani soldier in alleged firing by Indian forces along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

Two days later, on Jan 8 Pakistani soldiers killed and mutilated two Indian soldiers.

Hemraj's headless body was recovered after the Pakistani assault.

According to media reports from Islamabad, Pakistan rejected India's allegations of ceasefire violations. During the flag meeting held between the Pakistani and Indian army commanders at the LoC, Pakistan asked India to abide by the ceasefire agreement between the countries with regard to Kashmir, DawnNews reported.

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