In his first public reaction to last week’s deadly flare-up along the Line of Control (LoC), Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned on Tuesday that there “cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan.
Speaking to reporters at a ceremony to mark India’s Army Day – an event hosted by Indian army chief Bikram Singh – the premier said the killings on Jan 8 on the LoC were a “barbaric act”.
“It cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan, he told reporters on the sidelines of an army function. “What has happened is unacceptable,” he added in reference to the killing of two Indian soldiers, one of whom was beheaded. “Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book.”
The Indian government has accused Pakistani soldiers of crossing into Indian territory and killing two of its soldiers on January 8. Pakistan denies its troops were involved in any such incident and has accused Indian troops of killing two of its soldiers.
Singh’s comments came a day after commanders of the rival armies traded protests over the border exchanges. However, the Indian government cautioned against “jingoism.” Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said “professional armies’ respect rules of engagement … transgressions are surmounted through tactical responses and not driven by jingoism”.
He added that the mappings of tactical responses were best left to ‘professionals’ in an apparent disapproval of the Indian opposition’s strong military advice on the issue.
India’s foreign minister reflected a growing sense of frustration in New Delhi on Tuesday at Islamabad’s denial of responsibility, saying it only served to destabilise peace efforts.
“Such actions by Pakistani army … not only constitute a great provocation but leave us to draw appropriate conclusions about Pakistan’s seriousness in pursuing normalisation of relations with India,” minister Salman Khurshid told a news conference.
“It should not be felt that the brazen denial and the lack of a proper response from the government of Pakistan to our repeated demarches on this incident will be ignored… or there would be business as usual.”
India’s chief military commander in Kashmir also cranked up pressure on Pakistan, saying Monday’s border meeting aimed at calming tensions was fruitless.
“We accused them of carrying out the barbaric attack… we insisted that the head be returned,” Lieutenant General K T Parnaik told a press conference in the Kashmir garrison town of Akhnoor.
Delhi suspends new visa scheme
In a sign that Singh’s comments wasn’t exactly bluffing, the Indian government suspended a new programme to allow Pakistani pensioners to get visas on arrival at the border, citing technical glitches only hours after officials said it had begun.
Home Secretary R K Singh told reporters the scheme, which was designed to issue visas on arrival to senior citizens from Pakistan, had been suspended until further notice.
“There are technical issues, documents required. We will iron it out after consultation with other agencies,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2013.