Manmohan_File_670
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. — File photo

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday wound up a one-sided discourse led by irate TV channels and hawkish opposition leaders on the ongoing cross-border flare-up with Pakistan, as he asked Islamabad to punish the men who allegedly killed two Indian soldiers in Kashmir, though he refrained from publicly endorsing punitive measures urged by a restive military.

“It cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan, he told reporters on the sidelines of an army function days ahead of the national military parade.

“What has happened is unacceptable…Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book.”

In what could be a concerted move, India’s government suspended a new programme to allow elderly Pakistanis to get visas on arrival at the border, citing technical glitches only hours after officials said it had begun Tuesday.

Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters that the scheme, which was designed to issue visas on arrival to senior citizens from Pakistan, had been suspended until further notice.

“Couple of issues have to be resolved on that. There are technical issues, documents required. We will iron it out after consultation with other agencies,” he said.

The Indian government has accused Pakistani soldiers of crossing into Indian territory and killing two of its soldiers on Jan 8.

Pakistan denies its troops were involved in any such incident and has accused Indian troops of killing two of its soldiers.

Foreign ministers of both sides have warned against escalating tensions. But the Indian army chief of staff told his commanders on Monday to respond “aggressively” to any future Pakistani firing across the de facto border in Kashmir known as the Line of Control.

Shortly after the prime minister's comment, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid read out an official statement, threatening that it should not be felt that bilateral relations could remain unaffected.

“I think specifics of what might be necessary or found useful are decisions that will be taken as we move forward. At present, we feel that it is important that convergence of similar point of view on behalf of the government reflects the large section of our public opinion...

“Let it be known to everyone here and across the border that we are extremely determined and serious in this concern of ours and we have resorted to all such instruments and all such methods that are available to us at this time,” Mr. Khurshid said when asked about what tangibles was India looking at from Pakistan.

“It should not be felt that the brazen denial and the lack of a proper response from the government of Pakistan to our repeated demarches on this incident will be ignored and that bilateral relations could be unaffected or that there will be business as usual.

“Such actions by the Pakistan army, which are in contravention of all norms of international conduct, not only constitute a grave provocation but lead us to draw appropriate conclusions about Pakistan's seriousness in pursuing normalisation of relations with India,” the statement said.

The statement also said the incident of the killing of two Indian soldiers in Mendhar sector of Jammu region and the barbaric mutilation of their bodies has been condemned in the strongest possible terms.

Government has deplored “this grave provocation and repugnant act” of the Pakistan army and called on the government of Pakistan to carry out a proper investigation of this “unacceptable” action and ensure that this does not recur, it added. “This was immediately conveyed by our Director General Military Operations to his Pakistani counterpart after this incident and reiterated during the Brigadier-level Flag Meeting held at Chakan da Bagh yesterday”, the minister said.

Meanwhile, India’s National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon briefed senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley on the prevailing situation along the Line of Control.

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