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Army officers in hotline contact to ease tension

August 08, 2013
DG ISPR Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa.— Photo by Reuters/File
DG ISPR Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa.— Photo by Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: After a demonstration by a mob outside the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on Wednesday over the killing of Indian soldiers along the Line of Control, the Foreign Office asked India to beef up security of Pakistani diplomats and high commission staff.

Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Baglay was summoned to the Foreign Office and asked to convey to the Indian government that Pakistan expected it to meet its responsibility of protecting Pakistani diplomats and allied staff posted there.

“We summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner to the Foreign Office to stress that protection of the Pakistan High Commission and Pakistan House is the responsibility of the Indian government,” Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said. “We called for strengthening security of Pakistan representation in New Delhi.”

The demonstration was largely peaceful, except for charged youths raising anti-Pakistan slogans.

The protesters belonging to the Youth Congress demonstrated outside the high commission and the Pakistan House, the residence of the high commissioner, over the killing of five Indian soldiers in an apparent terrorist attack near the LoC.

Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner Mansoor Ahmed Khan was summoned on Tuesday to the Indian ministry of external affairs over the LoC incident and Defence Minister A.K. Antony in a statement in parliament accused “men in Pakistan Army uniforms” of having aided the attackers.

Pakistan rejected the allegations and reiterated its commitment to the 2003 ceasefire agreement.

“Pakistan remains committed to the ceasefire agreement of 2003 which is an important confidence building measure and should be respected in letter and spirit,” Mr Chaudhry said.

Pakistan also had accused India on Tuesday of unprovoked firing in Pando Sector, near Muzaffarabad, in which two soldiers were seriously injured.

The military operations chiefs of the two countries spoke to each other over the hotline in an attempt to calm down tensions.

According to ISPR chief Maj Gen Asim Bajwa, Director General of Military Operations Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem in his conversation with his Indian counterpart said there was no truth in the (Indian) allegation of LoC violation.

The Indian DGMO shared his side’s version of the event.

“Pakistan Military has strongly protested Indian violation of LoC in Pando Sector,” Gen Bajwa added.

Under the ceasefire agreement reached on Nov 25, 2003, the two sides committed not to target each other’s posts and personnel.

The agreement has largely held and was considered as one of the main successes in the peace process. However, violations increased in January this year and have been holding up the third round of the resumed peace dialogue between the two countries

The two sides are now preparing to restart the round and dates for talks on Wullar Barrage and Sir Creek have been proposed by Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan warned that baseless Indian allegations against the Pakistan Army would undermine the peace process.

Rejecting the Indian government’s accusation about an attack on its troops, he asked how the Pakistan Army could have launched such an attack 5km across the boundary line.

The minister said the Indian media was unleashing negative propaganda against Pakistan. The hue and cry of the Indian government and media was beyond comprehension, he added.

He advised the Indian government not to blame the Pakistan Army for its own failures.

Chaudhry Nisar said Pakistan wanted peaceful relations with India and it was possible only through bilateral efforts.

He said unnecessary allegations would only vitiate the atmosphere and block the way for resolution of outstanding issues through talks.

AFP adds: The foreign ministry said Pakistan wanted a strengthening of existing channels to stop “such ill-founded reports” in the future.

Indian army spokesman Rajesh Kalia said the two sides had exchanged fire late on Tuesday but only “small arms” were used.

In India, the opposition accused the government of letting Pakistan off the hook over the killing of soldiers, as the attack triggered uproar in parliament.

Indian army had initially blamed the attack on Pakistani troops but later withdrew the statement.

“Our defence minister has given a clean chit to Pakistan,” Sushma Swaraj, lower house leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said. He “has let the country down. He must apologise to the nation”, she said as the uproar forced parliament’s adjournment.

Senior BJP leader L. K. Advani told lawmakers “this is no time for talks” as news channels ran footage of the arrival of the soldiers’ flag-draped coffins in New Delhi.

Analysts said the events had jeopardised efforts to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian premier Manmohan Singh in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The Congress-led government has been keen to engage with Pakistan, with Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid saying: “We don’t want to create a situation that is detrimental and destructive for India’s security and peace.”

But, he said it was “too early” to say now whether the meeting would take place.

“Pakistan is accountable whatever happens, the distinction between state and non-state actors is not a distinction that we accept,” he told NDTV.

Prime Minister Singh also called an all-party meeting to seek the opposition’s support for the proposed meeting with the Pakistani leader.