ISLAMABAD / NEW DELHI, Jan 8: While the army accused India on Tuesday of covering up an assault on a Pakistani post over the weekend by making counter-claims of an attack on its (Indian) patrol, senior military officials of both countries exchanged views on heightened tensions along the Line of Control (LoC).
“I have checked with the commanders on ground and no such incident happened today. There were no violations of the LoC by our forces and no raids across the LoC,” a military spokesman said while rejecting Indian allegations of an attack on its military patrol in which two Indian soldiers were said to have been killed.
“These are all baseless allegations,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Indian army alleged that Pakistani troops benefiting from thick fog in the area crossed the LoC and attacked an army patrol, killing two of its soldiers. Pakistan forces were said to have safely retreated back after a brief exchange of fire.
The incident, Indian Army claimed, happened near the town of Mendhar, 175 km from Srinagar in the Poonch sector. The army patrol was reportedly ambushed about 100 metres on the other side of the LoC in occupied Kashmir.
There were also reports that the raiding squad beheaded one of the dead Indian soldiers and having taken away his head.
“In a significant escalation to the continuing series of ceasefire violations and infiltration attempts supported by Pak Army, a group of their regular soldiers intruded across the Line of Control in the Mendhar Sect on 08 Jan 2013. Pak army troops, having taken advantage of thick fog and mist in the forested area, were moving towards (our) posts when an alert area domination patrol spotted and engaged the intruders. The firefight between Pak and own troops continued for approximately half an hour after which the intruders retreated back towards their side of Line of Control. Two soldiers Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh laid down their lives while fighting the Pak troops.”
Significantly there was no mention of a gruesome version aired for much of the day by Indian TV channels that claimed one of the Indian troops was brutally decapitated by the intruders.
“We would call upon Pakistan authorities to ensure the sanctity of the LoC is upheld at all times and such incidents of unprovoked firing eliminated,” the spokesperson added.
But appearing on NDTV, Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said of reports about beheading of a soldier: “We have to make it known to Pakistan that this is unacceptable, ghastly...and extremely short-sighted on their part.”
He said India’s response would be decided on Wednesday “after careful consideration of the details” and the government “will take steps that are meaningful and effective.”
The Tuesday’s incident was the second in three days pointing towards escalation of tensions between the two countries.
On Sunday, Indian forces attacked a Pakistani post along the LoC, killing a soldier and seriously injuring two others.
The attack by Indian troops was viewed seriously by Islamabad because its post had been physically assaulted in the attack. Ceasefire along the LoC has been holding since 2003 with sporadic minor violations.
The two incidents mark a new trend in the hostilities between troops posted on LoC which were characterised by exchange of gunfire.
Indian defence ministry’s statement said it “expects Islamabad to honour the ceasefire agreement strictly”.
It was virtually the same message Pakistan’s Foreign Office conveyed to Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Bagley on Monday when he was summoned to receive protest over the Sunday attack.
He had been told by a senior Pakistani official that Pakistan viewed the LoC ceasefire violation as a serious matter and wanted the confidence building measure (CBM) agreed in 2003 to be fully respected.