Pakistan summoned the Indian High Commissioner to lodge a strong protest after Indian troops killed two more Pakistani soldiers and injured four others, including civilians, on Thursday, as clashes along the Line of Control (LoC) showed no signs of abating despite Islamabad’s calls for defusing tensions between the two neighbours.
According to military sources, Indian troops resorted to ‘unprovoked firing’ on Pakistani positions in Rakhchakri sector, near Rawalakot, killing Lance Naik Habibullah. Hours after the first incident, Inter-Services Public Relations reported Indian forces killed another Pakistani soldier, Sepoy Gul Wahab, and injured two others in the Hotspring sector.
A Pakistani Army captain was killed in similar cross-LoC firing by Indian troops a day earlier in Kargil.
Indian troops also injured a woman and a child in Nakyal sector on Thursday, local authorities told The Express Tribune.
According to Nakyal Assistant Commissioner Chaudhry Ayub, Shamim Akhtar, 35, and Usama, 12, were injured when Indian forces fired at Balakot village. They were subsequently rushed to the Nakyal Tehsil Headquarters Hospital.
“The firing started around 11pm and continued for almost half an hour,” said Balakot village resident Subhan Rahim.
According to an official statement issued by the foreign ministry, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani conveyed Pakistan’s ‘serious concern over the continued ceasefire violations by the Indian army’ to Indian High Commissioner TCA Raghavan following the killings of Pakistani soldiers. He urged the Indian government to respect the ceasefire agreement and desist from escalating tensions along the LoC further, the statement added.
The latest ceasefire violation also drew a strong condemnation from Pakistan as both the National Assembly and Senate passed unanimous resolutions against the continued violation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement on Thursday.
But while conveying Pakistan’s serious concerns of the ceasefire violations, Jilani also expressed Islamabad’s keenness to engage with New Delhi in constructive dialogue to restore peace along the LoC. He proposed senior officials from the two countries’ militaries and foreign ministries meet and discuss ways to strengthen existing mechanisms to ensure the ceasefire agreement was observed by both sides.
Earlier, at his weekly news briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry defended Pakistan’s policy of observing restraint and seeking dialogue with India to defuse the situation.
“Responding to provocation with provocation is not the right approach,” he said, adding that Pakistan was following the policy of restraint, responsibility, and dialogue in the larger interest of peace in the region.
“At the same time, the people of Pakistan, the leadership and our institutions are fully capable of defending our territory and our interests,” Chaudhry warned, saying Islamabad’s approach of seeking talks with India should not be construed as its weakness.
Doubts on Nawaz-Manmohan meeting
Answering questions, the spokesman refused to confirm or deny the possibility of a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York next month.
“I don’t have the exact date or the confirmation. Of course it has to be with the agreement of two governments,” was his reply when his attention was drawn to Indian media reports suggesting that the summit meeting might not take place in New York between the two Prime Ministers.
“But should that opportunity arise, the leadership of Pakistan is prepared to use that occasion to serve the interest of peace,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2013.