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Pak, Indian commanders agree to de-escalate border flare-up

Publication Date : 17-01-2013

 

Senior Pakistani and Indian military commanders yesterday agreed on de-escalating the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) that has over the past 10 days led to death of five soldiers on both sides.

The Directors General Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries spoke over hotline about Tuesday night’s Indian attack on Pakistani posts in Hot Spring and Jandrot sectors in which a Pakistani soldier Naik Ashraf was killed.

Nike Ashraf was the third Pakistani to be killed in the 19 ceasefire violations by India this month.

“Both sides agreed on the need to reduce tension on the LoC,” a military spokesman said about the commanders’ conversation.

This was the second contact between the two DGMOs over the past week or so and follows a brigade-level flag meeting on Monday.

The previous two interactions had failed to stop violations of ceasefire that has by and large held since 2003 and is considered a major functioning confidence-building measure between the two countries.

A Pakistani military official told Dawn that the latest contact stood better chances of reducing the tensions.

The two sides, it is said, would exercise maximum restraint, immediately bring incidents of violations to the notice of senior command and tone down media hype.

Pakistan military is at a loss to understand motives behind escalation by the Indian side. It was the January 6 raid on a Pakistani post in Haji Pir sector by Indian troops that escalated tensions on LoC, though there had been a number of exchanges before.

Pakistani side has through statements by Inter Services Public Relations and Foreign Office repeatedly expressed desire for de-escalation, but Indian civil and military leadership has been aggressive.

Indian Army chief Gen Bikram Singh on Monday said India reserved the right to retaliate at the “time and place” of its choosing.

His comments were considered by Pakistani leaders as offensive.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, criticising Gen Bikram’s remarks, said: “Just very hostile comments.”

Speaking at Charlie Rose Show of the PBS news channel, she said: “After the comments by the army chief I am taken back a few 20 years.”

Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh weighed in by saying there could no more be business as usual with Pakistan.

Notwithstanding public commitments by the two sides about the peace process remaining unaffected, the start of third phase of dialogue with a meeting of water secretaries on Tulbul Navigation/Wullar Barrage tentatively planned for January 27-28 appears in doubt.

India has postponed the start of visa on arrival facility for senior citizens, which was to begin on January 15, and asked Pakistani hockey players, visiting India to play in the Hockey India League, to leave.

Dawn’s New Delhi correspondent adds: The Indian Army said the talks between the two DGMOs lasted for ten minutes starting at 10am during which there was also an understanding not to allow the situation to escalate, Press Trust of India said.

Meanwhile, PTI quoted the state-run Pakistan Radio as claiming the country’s DGMO had lodged a strong protest with his Indian counterpart over the killing of a Pakistani soldier.

Earlier in the day, the Indian army chief rejected Pakistani statements that Indian troops had crossed the LoC and indulged in unprovoked firing, saying any casualty on the other side might have been due to retaliatory firing.

“Our jawans don’t cross LoC. We honour human rights. We fire in retaliation when provoked,” he said at Khairiar in Uttar Pradesh after meeting the family of Lance Naik Hemraj who was allegedly beheaded by Pakistani soldiers in a cross-LoC attack in Poonch sector on January 8.

In reply to questions, Gen Singh said: “The relationship (between the two countries) is got to be seen on what has been going on at the border.”

On the possibility of getting back the head of Hemraj, which was taken away by Pakistani soldiers, he said efforts were being made to get it back.

 

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