A Pakistani soldier was killed by Indian forces in yet another ceasefire violation at the Line of Control (LoC) on Thursday, even as Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar hoped the recent border clashes would not derail the peace process between Islamabad and New Delhi.
The latest incident took place at the Hotspring sector in the Battal region, according to the Pakistani military.
“Havildar Mohyuddin embraced shahadat (martyrdom) due to unprovoked firing by Indian troops at the Hotspring sector in Battal at 2:40pm today (Thursday),” said a statement by the military.
“Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing at a Pakistani post named Kundi,” it added, giving no further details.
According to a military official, the Indian side employed both small and heavy arms in the exchange of fire, which continued till the filing of this report. There were no reports of further casualties, however.
This is the third such incident in the last five days. Four soldiers from both sides have been killed in the recent spike in hostilities across the LoC – the heavily militarised de-facto border between Pakistan and India at Kashmir.
Tensions flared on Sunday when Pakistan accused Indian forces of conducting a cross-border raid, killing one Pakistani soldier and injuring another. Hostilities escalated on Tuesday, when India accused Pakistan of killing and beheading two of its soldiers on their side of the LoC.
While both countries have appeared determined to prevent the clashes from wrecking a fragile peace process, privately, senior Indian military officers have said they want to see the ‘beheading’ avenged on the ground as a question of ‘honour’, according to AFP.
Both countries have summoned each other’s top envoys to register their respective protests over the ceasefire violations.
A ceasefire has been in force along the LoC since 2003 but there are sporadic violations on both sides. According to Pakistani security officials, Indian forces have committed 10 ceasefire violations this year so far.
Khar stresses commitment to peace
At a news conference here on Thursday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the peace process with India, despite the escalating crisis at the LoC.
“The Pakistan government and the Pakistani people have demonstrated a deep, abiding commitment to normalise and improve relations with India and to really start a journey of trust-building,” she said.
Asked whether the ongoing ceasefire violations could derail the peace process, Khar replied: “I hope not … I (do not) see it setting back the process.”
She said Pakistan was committed to the 2003 ceasefire and called for pursuing the existing mechanisms, which ‘allow us to deal with such issues and problems.’ Pakistan has proposed a United Nations probe into the ceasefire violations. However, India turned down the suggestion saying it did not intend to ‘internationalise’ the issue.
Foreign Minister Khar also pointed out the contradictory statements from New Delhi. She cited remarks by Indian Army’s northern command, which reportedly denied any of its soldiers had been beheaded.
Indian newspaper’s take
An Indian newspaper, on Thursday, suggested the Indian army may have provoked the recent clashes across the LoC.
According to a report carried by The Hindu, Indian commanders breached the ceasefire accord by ordering the establishment of new observation posts along the LoC after a 70-year-old woman was able to cross it unhindered last year.
The Indian army, however, has denied the report.
A senior Pakistani official told The Express Tribune that it was beyond their comprehension as to why the Indian side was escalating tensions.
“If this continues, we are left with no other option but to respond,” cautioned the official saying they were assessing the situation on how to defuse the situation.
Separately, a senior foreign ministry official said it appears that domestic issues such as the uproar over the gang-rape in New Delhi had compelled Indian authorities to exacerbate the tension.
“But I am sure that even India cannot afford any further deterioration of this situation because that will shake the confidence of foreign investors,” he added. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2013.