India summons Pakistani envoy, lodges strong protest against killing of soldiers
SANDEEP DIKSHIT, ANITA JOSHUA (The Hindu): Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir was summoned to the External Affairs Ministry on Wednesday to protest against the killing of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control (LoC).Pakistan, however, said it was sure the Indian Army started the chain of events and things took a turn for the worse early on Sunday morning with the death of one of its soldiers and critical injuries to another.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, in an interview to CNN-IBN, and the Foreign Office, in a statement, offered to have the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) investigate the ceasefire violations on the LoC from Sunday morning.
In Delhi, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai conveyed to Mr. Bashir India’s “deepest concern and protest” over the attack in which the bodies of Indian soldiers were subjected to “barbaric and inhuman mutilation.’’
Pakistan was asked to immediately investigate these actions that are in contravention of all norms of international conduct and ensure that these do not recur.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the Pakistan envoy was “spoken to in very strong terms” and called the incident “completely unacceptable.”
The summoning of Mr. Bashir took place a couple of days after Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan Gopal Bagley was called to the Foreign Office and told that Indian soldiers crossed the LoC on Sunday.
India denied the allegation and claimed its troops undertook “controlled retaliatory firing’’ after the Pakistani Army shelled an Indian village, damaging a house.
Pakistan too denied its soldiers crossed the LoC in dense fog two days later and ambushed Indian troops out on patrol. It, therefore, did not comment on India’s charge that the two soldiers were decapitated.
Referring to Pakistan’s allegation that Indian soldiers raided a check-post in Bagh on Sunday, Ms. Khar said both countries should investigate these incidents and assist each other if necessary.
Both Mr. Khurshid and Ms. Khar stressed need to ensure these incidents do not derail the peace process.
The Indian Minister referred to bilateral meetings in which maintaining the sanctity of the LoC was acknowledged as one of the most important Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Violation of ceasefire was of great concern and that would, if not immediately contained, “have adverse impact on what we have been trying to do for such a long time.”
Ms. Khar said both countries must avoid sending across a message to the world that they were back to “taking a go at each other.”
New Delhi suggested it did not wish to escalate matters and both armies activated their existing communication channels with Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia speaking to his Pakistani counterpart Maj. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem about the incident.
The Pakistan Foreign Office, in its statement, termed the ceasefire agreement of 2003 an important CBM and called for abiding and strengthening the military mechanisms to ensure that there was no recurrence of such violations in future.
Pakistan military officials described the allegations as “mere propaganda” by the Indian Army. It was being done to divert the attention of the world from the raid on a Pakistani post. Also, according to them, Pakistan has carried out ground verification and found nothing of the sort as alleged by India. This was conveyed to India, it said.
But sources in the Indian Army maintained that men from the Pakistan Army’s 29 Baloch regiment were behind the attack. The victims, Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh and Lance Naik Hemraj, were from Sidhi in Madhya Pradesh and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh respectively.
The attack took place along the LoC when about a dozen Pakistani troops entered the Indian territory and assaulted a four-member patrol party, the sources added.