NEW DELHI, Jan 9: India strongly protested to Pakistan on Wednesday over the alleged killing of its two soldiers by Pakistani troops in a cross-border raid in Kashmir on Tuesday, but Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid also said that the issue should not be escalated any further.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner Salman Bashir was summoned by Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on Wednesday to convey New Delhi’s anger. Mr Bashir, speaking to the media later, denied India’s charge.

“He was called to the Ministry this morning and he was spoken to in very strong terms,” Mr Khurshid said when asked to comment on the issue during a joint press conference with his Vietnamese counterpart.

“We have conveyed our deepest concern and protest at what has happened…At the same time, I think it is very important that we make sure that whatever has happened should not be escalated. We cannot and must not allow for an escalation of a very unwholesome event that has taken place. I hope that message has gone home,” the minister said.

Most TV channels in Delhi had a field day often with hawkish statements by analysts and anchors alike, including a recurring demand for hot pursuit of Pakistani troops.

An official statement by the Indian foreign ministry fleshed out the meeting with Mr Bashir. The ministry’s statement claimed regular Pakistani troops had crossed the Line of Control at Mendhar sector and engaged the Indian troops who were patrolling the sector. “Two Indian soldiers were killed in the attack and their bodies subjected to barbaric and inhuman mutilation. The Government of 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.”

Mr Mathai recalled to Mr Bashir that experts of both countries had met in New Delhi on December 27, 2012 to discuss conventional CBMs, wherein maintaining the sanctity of the LOC, one of the most important CBMs between the two countries, was emphasised.

Mr Bashir told the media after meeting Mr Mathai that Islamabad remained firmly committed to respecting the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. He, however, denied a Pakistan Army attack on Indian soldiers in the Mendhar sector in Poonch district on Tuesday.

“I would like to address some of the concerns, which are expressed here in the Indian media since yesterday regarding what is called the Mendhar incident,” Mr Bashir said. “First of all, I would like to say that Pakistan remains firmly committed to respecting the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. It is important, I believe both governments agree, that the ceasefire, which is an important confidence building measure, must be respected by both sides.”

Mr Bashir said Pakistan was “mindful of the aberrations that have happened in the past. We are especially concerned about the incursion by the Indian forces on 6th of January when our post in the Haji Pir Pass sector was attacked which led to the martyrdom of one of the soldiers and injuries to several.

“The matter was raised by the Foreign Ministry with the Indian High Commission and also by the Director General Military Operations Pakistan with his Indian counterpart,” he added. The Pakistani envoy further said that the Directors General of Military Operations have been in contact with each other over the Mendhar incident.

“As far as this Mendhar incident is concerned, the two Director Generals of Military Operations have been in contact with each other. They have spoken to each other this morning. And it is quite clear from our side that at no point in time did any of the Pakistani forces violate or cross the LoC. As such, the concerns that are being expressed here in the media are denied emphatically,” Mr Bashir said.

“I think it’s important for both governments and I believe it is important for both nations to work together to promote mutual confidence and in particular on issues such as these,” he added.

In a separate response Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony condemned the alleged killing of the soldiers as ‘highly provocative’ and said that the way one of the Indian soldier’s bodies had been treated was ‘inhuman’.

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