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The Brigadier level officers from India (right), and Pakistan at the flag meeting at Chakan-da-Bagh, in Poonch, yesterday.
New Delhi/Jammu: India yesterday took a tough stance against Pakistan over the killing and mutilation of two of its soldiers with its army chief asserting that his forces “reserve the right to retaliate” and a strong protest being lodged at the flag meeting along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.
Pakistan denied the charge, news reports said.
The January 8 killing of Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh and Lance Naik Hemraj - who was decapitated - in the Mendhar sector in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops was a “gruesome and an unpardonable act”, army chief General Bikram Singh declared.
He also termed as “pre-planned and pre-meditated” Pakistan’s aggression along the LoC, which divides in Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
The tough talking army chief said it was possible that Pakistan Army used terrorists as it had done in the past.
“The firing from Pakistan is a manifestation of their frustration... Their troops are not moving forward but we are watching,” he said.
“What they (Pakistan) have done is against the ethics of soldiering. My heart goes out to the families of soldiers who were killed and whose bodies were mutilated. It’s a gruesome and unpardonable act. Beheading of soldiers is not acceptable,” Gen Bikram Singh told reporters in New Delhi on the eve of Army Day. “We will uphold the ceasefire as long as it is maintained. We reserve the right to retaliate at the time and place of our choosing.”
He added that pressure needed to be exerted on Pakistan so the severed head of Hemraj was returned.
In response to a question, he said it had to be taken up at the government level. “This has to be done through diplomatic levels,” he said.
Hemraj’s widow has been fasting in her village near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, demanding that the severed head of her husband be handed over to the family.
While Gen Bikram Singh was talking to media, the Indian and Pakistani armies were holding a brigadier level “flag meeting” along LoC at Chakan da Bagh in Poonch.
The hour-long meeting, which started at 1pm, saw the Indian side lodge a “strong protest with Pakistan over its soldiers intruding into Indian side and brutally killing two of its soldiers in Sona Gali area of Mendhar sector on January 8 and repeated violations of ceasefire by Pakistan on the LoC”, a source said. The sources said the Indian Army also demanded the severed head. The Indian side also underlined the need for restoring confidence building measures (CBMs) across the LoC.
Ten ceasefire violations by Pakistan have taken place this year; in 2012, the number was 117 and 61 in 2011. The firing by Pakistan across the LoC is mainly to provide cover to infiltrating militants, it is believed.
Cross-LoC trade, taking place four days a week from Tuesday to Friday, has halted since Wednesday as Pakistan did not open the LoC gates. The cross-LoC bus carrying passengers to and from Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan administered Kashmir once a week on Mondays also did not ply.
Border tensions have risen sharply since the January 6 death of a Pakistani soldier in alleged firing by Indian forces along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.
Two days later, on January 8 Pakistani soldiers killed and mutilated two Indian soldiers. Hemraj’s headless body was recovered after the assault.
Meanwhile, top defence officials from China and India held talks in Bejing on strengthening ties. Xu Qiliang, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, met India’s Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, Xinhua reported.
Xu said China and India, being the biggest developing countries in the world, are important neighbours for each other.
He said the two countries have extensive common interests and were developing friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation, in line with the aspirations of the people in both nations.
The Chinese official said he believes that the two countries have enough wisdom and ability to handle their relationship and are able to pave a healthy and stable development path for it.
Xu said China attaches great importance in developing military ties with India.