Two soldiers killed in border clash

January 09, 2013 - 12:07:55 am

NEW DELHI: Pakistani troops yesterday killed two Indian soldiers near the tense disputed border in Kashmir, military sources said, two days after Islamabad said one of its soldiers was killed there.

“Pakistani troops had intruded into Indian territory before the clash began. An Indian ground patrol “saw something suspicious and then there was a firefight”, Army spokesman Rajesh Kalia said.

“We lost two soldiers and one of them has been badly mutilated,” he added, declining to give more details.

Yesterday’s deaths occurred in southern Kashmir’s Mendhar sector, 173km west by road from Jammu, the commander said.

Poonch Deputy Commissioner A K Sahu said the Pakistanis killed two Indian soldiers and wounded a third. “They slit the throats of two soldiers.” 

Sources said that the Pakistani troops took away the weapons of the dead Indian soldiers: Sudhakar Singh and Hemraj of 13 Rajputana Rifles.

The Pakistanis reached the post since it was located close to the fence near the LoC, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

The Indian Army has erected a three-tier fence in its territory running along the LOC. The fence is about 500 metres to two kilometres inside Indian territory and seeks to prevent Pakistani intrusion. But the Pakistanis sneaked in using the fog in the forested area as a cover, an army spokesman said. 

“The (Indian) patrol spotted them and engaged the intruders” for about half hour after which the Pakistani troops retreated, he said. The official termed the intrusion and killings as “yet another grave provocation by the Pakistan Army”.

He said the latest attack was being taken up “sternly through official channels”.

The report of the Pakistani attack - which has the potential to derail India-Pakistan relations - came soon after India told Pakistan “to ensure that the sanctity of LoC is upheld at all times”.

Also yesterday, Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited Sialkot and asked the army to remain “fully prepared to respond to the full spectrum of threats, direct or indirect, overt or covert”.

He said Pakistan was putting in place a new concept of war fighting “evolved and validated in the Azm-e-Nau (New Resolve) series of war games and exercises”, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

The Indian external affairs ministry denied that Indian troops crossed the LoC in Rampur sector or violated the ceasefire in force since 2003 in the area as claimed by Islamabad. “India is committed to the sanctity of LoC,” he said, calling it the most important part of the India-Pakistan confidence-building measures.

“We call upon the Pakistan authorities to ensure that the sanctity of the LoC is upheld at all times and to ensure that such incidents of unprovoked firing do not recur.” The spokesman was referring to an earlier incident which Pakistan says involved firing by Indian troops that left one of their soldiers dead.

India says that the director generals of military operation of both countries were in touch over the earlier firing. New Delhi says it were the Pakistani who triggered the earlier gun battle.

Their “unprovoked firing on Indian troops” damaged the roof of a house in Churunda village. “Indian troops undertook controlled retaliation in response.”

In Islamabad, a Pakistan military spokesman denied what he called an “Indian allegation of unprovoked firing”. He declined to elaborate.

The allegation follows another disputed incident on Sunday, when Pakistan said Indian army troops attacked their base and killed a soldier. India said they had not launched an attack and that Pakistani troops bombarded their positions for more than five hours.

On Sunday, Pakistan said Indian troops crossed the de facto border in Kashmir known as the Line of Control and stormed a military post. It said one Pakistani soldier was killed and another injured.

It lodged a formal protest with India on Monday over what it called an unprovoked attack.

India denied crossing the line, saying it had retaliated with small arms fire after Pakistani mortars hit a village home.

A foreign ministry spokesman said Indian troops had undertaken “controlled retaliation” on Sunday after “unprovoked firing” which damaged a civilian home.

A ceasefire has been in place along the Line of Control since 2003 but it is periodically violated by both sides.

Relations between the nuclear-armed rivals have been slowly improving over the last few years following a rupture in their dialogue after the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, which was blamed by India on Pakistan-based militants. 

The latest deaths could undermine recent efforts to build trust, such as opening up trade and offering more lenient visa regimes which have been a feature of recent talks between senior political leaders from both sides.