Talks between military officials from Pakistan and India ended in a stalemate on Monday with the two sides accusing each other of violating the ceasefire at their heavily-militarised de facto border in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region.
The talks were overshadowed by Indian army chief Gen Bikram Singh’s warning that India would retaliate for the killing of two of its soldiers on the Line of Control (LoC) at the “time and place of its choice”.
A brigadier-level flag meeting was held at Chakan-da-Bagh in Ponch Sector on the LoC to defuse tensions triggered by the recent border skirmishes, which killed four soldiers from both sides.
During the 30-minute meeting, both sides refused to budge on their previously stated positions, accusing each other of provoking the shootings and lodged protests against each other.
Pakistan strongly rejected Indian allegations that its troops resorted to unprovoked fire, attacked any Indian army post or killed Indian soldiers, according to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
Pakistan strongly protested with Indian military authorities about the “continuous ceasefire violations, including an attempted raid by Indian troops on the LoC during the last one week”, it added.
The unprovoked firing and raid resulted in the killing of two Pakistani soldiers –Havaldar Ghulam Mohyuddin and Naik Muhammad Aslam – while one soldier, Sepoy Waseem, was injured, according to the statement.
It was conveyed [to Pakistan] in no uncertain terms that any repetition of such acts would not be tolerated, said an Indian official statement after the meeting. “The Indian army reserves the right to retaliate at the place and time of our own choosing in case they recur,” it said, echoing Gen Singh’s remarks.
According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), the Indian side lodged a strong protest against the “heinous mutilation of our deceased soldiers’ bodies.”
A senior Pakistani military official strongly rejected the Indian allegations and reiterated the call for third-party investigations into the ceasefire violations.
The official told The Express Tribune that Pakistan was committed to abiding by the November 2003 ceasefire agreement, but reserved the right to strike back if its forces were attacked by Indian troops.
Gen Singh’s warning
Speaking at a press conference on the eve of Army Day prior to the flag meeting, Gen Singh said “we won’t remain passive when attacked,” adding that he expected the Indian “commanders to be aggressive and offensive”.
Regretting the beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj, he said the Indian army would have never indulged in such type of acts. “We give respect to the enemy’s bodies. These are our military values and you have seen this during the Kargil war,” Gen Singh reiterated. He added that the beheading was “unacceptable” and “unpardonable.”
He claimed the January 6 LoC violation was pre-planned and premeditated. “It [the attack] was stage-managed and pre-planned [by Pakistan]. They have planted lies to justify what they have done,” he alleged. However, he conceded “tactical errors” on the part of the local Indian unit stationed along the LoC and said an inquiry would be conducted to find out the truth. He dismissed the possibility of the shootings leading to a full-scale war.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2013.