ISLAMABAD, Aug 6: Rejecting the Indian media’s allegations of a cross-LoC attack, the Foreign Office has reminded New Delhi about the importance of resuming the peace dialogue between the two countries and protecting the touchy ties from ‘negative media propaganda’.
“Pakistan rejects the allegations carried by some sections of the Indian media of an attack across the LoC in the Poonch sector in which five Indian soldiers were claimed to have been killed. These are baseless and unfounded allegations. Our military authorities have confirmed that there had been no exchange of fire that could have resulted in such an incident,” a Foreign Office statement on the reported LoC incident said on Tuesday.
The statement that reserved its criticism for the media, however, did not mention the summoning of Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner in New Delhi Mansoor Ahmed Khan to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs for receiving a demarche on the Poonch Sector incident.
There was no reference either to the statement made by Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony in both Houses of Parliament, in which he had clearly spoken of involvement of “persons dressed in Pakistan army uniform” in the attack.
Indian authorities claimed that an Indian military patrol was ambushed by some 20 heavily armed terrorists, who were at the time of attack accompanied by men donning Pakistan Army uniforms. It is said that five Indian troops had been killed in the incident.
Meanwhile, ISPR Director General Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa bluntly rejected the Indian allegations as a ploy to deflect pressure generated because of its own violations of LoC.
“After every Indian violation of LoC, Indians fabricate something and rather put an allegation of violation on Pakistan to ease pressure,” Maj-Gen Bajwa said in a twitter posting.
A Pakistani soldier was killed and another injured in a ceasefire violation on July 27 by Indian forces in Rawalakot Sector. There was another attack along the Sialkot Working Boundary on the same day.
Meanwhile, there were reports of Indian forces crossing the LoC and kidnapping four men from Pakistan administered side in Neelum Valley on Aug 4.
While the FO statement calling for early resumption of dialogue process, which was this time suspended because of LoC incidents in January, insisted that “existing military mechanisms” needed to be strengthened so that “ill founded (media) reports” could not vitiate the atmosphere.
The hotline between Indian and Pakistani military commanders and the mechanism of flag meetings between field officers exist for dealing with incidents along the LoC.
The FO’s statement reiterated commitment to the ceasefire agreement of 2003, which it said “should be respected in letter and spirit”.
The LoC, which remained relatively quite since the 2003 ceasefire accord, has witnessed a number of incidents since the start of the year. The ceasefire accord is still seen by both sides as an important confidence building measure.
There have been 186 ceasefire violations by India this year alone, according to a count of ceasefire violations maintained by Pakistan Army.
India and Pakistan are on the verge of resuming their stalled process and were working out dates of meetings for the various segments of the dialogue.
Islamabad had proposed Aug 27-28 for the meeting on Wullar Barrage and Sept 16-17 for talks on Sir Creek, but Delhi is still to convey its acceptance.
However, a weekend terrorist attack on Indian Consulate in Jalalabad and now the LoC incident do not bode well for the edgy talks process.
President of the Jinnah Institute Sherry Rehman stressed the centrality of sustained and uninterrupted dialogue between India and Pakistan as an urgent prerequisite for the identity and prosperity of South Asia as a region.
Making an argument for pro-active leadership instead of strategic drift, she said that incidents such as the ones on the Line of Control in Kashmir should act as a spur to dialogue, not a deterrent.
Ms Rehman said the momentum for peace, and for crafting a space that allows for both crisis management and sustained negotiations on new and outstanding issues was all the more urgent after the recent LoC incidents.