Firing continues on LoC as Pakistan remains defiant
Srinagar: The situation along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir continues to simmer with fresh firing reported from the Pakistani side on Tuesday.
Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire in Poonch district and faced retaliation from the Indian Army.
"Pakistani troops again opened small and medium fire at three Indian forward posts on LoC in Mendhar sector today (Tuesday) evening," an Army source said yesterday. The Indian Army gave a calibrated response to the firing "which was aimed mainly to silence Pakistani guns," the source added.
Four incidences of ceasefire violation have been reported since the Brigadier-level flag meeting on Monday to bring down tension on the LoC, which had mounted after Pakistani soldiers intruded into Indian side on January 8 and brutally killed two soldiers. There have been continuous ceasefire violations by Pakistan since then.
Pakistan yesterday said that it did not want to vitiate the already tense situation along the LoC by making irresponsible statements and instead wanted to continue the dialogue process. Its Army however accused Indian troops of killing one of its soldiers in "unprovoked firing" along the Line of Control.
A statement from the Army`s media arm alleged that Indian troops violated the ceasefire on the LoC and "carried out unprovoked firing" in Hotspring and Jandrot sectors. The firing continued from 10pm to 11pm Pakistan time and the soldier was killed at Kundi post, the statement added.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar also upped the ante, saying the remarks made by Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh following the beheading of an Indian soldier on the LoC last week were "very hostile".
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday declared that there can be "no business as usual" with Pakistan after the brutal killing of two Indian soldiers on the LoC.
The Prime Minister made the significant statement at Army Chief General Bikram Singh`s residence on the occasion of 65th Army Day, a clear indication that diplomatic ties with Pakistan were headed for a downturn.
"There can be no business as usual after the barbaric act," he said. "Those responsible for the heinous act will be brought to book."
Shortly after Manmohan Singh spoke, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said: "It should not be felt that the brazen denials and the lack of appropriate response from Pakistan will be ignored and bilateral relations will be unaffected and that there will be business as usual."
But the minister declined to specify what steps India would take. He said the "specifics of what might be necessary or found useful are decisions that will be taken as we move forward".
The Army Chief also sounded tough. "I want to assure the nation that the Indian Army is prepared to face all challenges and foil the designs of the enemy," he said on the occasion of Army Day yesterday.
He had Monday called the killing of the Indian soldiers "an unpardonable act" and said his forces reserved the "right to retaliate".
Also, in a reflection of the anger within the military over the beheading and mutilation of the two soldiers, the head of the Northern Command warned that the Indian Army had "definite plans to retaliate" but would do so when it wanted.
"We have definite plans to retaliate but not in haste and anger, and at the time and place of our own choice," Lt Gen KT Parnaik told the media in Akhnoor, about 40 km from Jammu.
Lt Gen Parnaik said there was a lot of anger among Army units. "But I pacified them."
The growing tensions on the LoC also led India to put on hold the Visa-on-Arrival (VoA) regime for senior citizens of Pakistan. The regime was to start yesterday but was not operationalised because of "technical issues" that are yet to be sorted out, an official said.
The second major casualty of the escalating tensions was the Pakistani participation in the Hockey India League (HIL).
Pakistani players Fareed Ahmed, Imran Butt, Mahmood Rashid, Muhammad Tousiq, Muhammad Rizwan Sr, Muhammad Rizwan Jr, Muhammad Irfan, Shafqat Rasool and Kashif Shah were asked to head home.
(With Agency inputs)
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