Muhammad Afsar, a villager in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, holds a mortar shrapnel which struck his home at Darra Sher Khan in Tatta Pani sector, yesterday. Right: India’s Border Security Force soldiers patrol the fenced border with Pakistan in Suchetgarh, southwest of Jammu.
NEW DELHI/islamabad: India’s army has reached an ‘understanding’ with Pakistan to de-escalate military tensions in Kashmir after a recent deadly flare-up in the disputed border region, a spokesman said yesterday.
“An understanding has been arrived at between the two director-generals of military operations to de-escalate the situation along the Line of Control (LoC),” army spokesman Jagdeep Dahiya said in reference to a de facto border in Kashmir.
Dahiya said that the two sides’ senior military commanders had spoken for 10 minutes over the telephone where they reached their agreement.
“The two DGMOs spoke to each other at 10am (0430 GMT) for 10 minutes and the Pakistan DGMO said strict instructions have been passed not to violate the ceasefire,” he said.
Dahiya said Indian troops stationed along the border would also not breach the ceasefire forged between the two nuclear-armed rivals in 2003. “We have always upheld the ceasefire and have only retaliated,” the spokesman said.
He did not give further details of the conversation between India’s DGMO Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia and his Pakistani counterpart, Major General Ashfaq Nadeem.
An Indian military source in Kashmir said there had been no cross-border firing since the two generals spoke.
Earlier yesterday Pakistani army protested to India over the killing of one of its soldiers, the fifth fatality this year in heightened hostilities that have raised concerns about ceasefire violations between the nuclear-armed neighbours. Indian troops shot dead the soldier at a position called Kundi during firing from the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan territory, Pakistan’s army said in a statement.
Two Pakistani and two Indian soldiers were killed early this month in the worst outbreak of violence in Kashmir since both countries agreed a ceasefire nearly a decade ago.
The village of Dara Sher Khan in Pakistan’s Tatta Pani sector, where a solider was killed on Tuesday night, appeared deserted yesterday as residents cowered in their homes.
Muhammad Afsar, a former army man, said he and his family hid under bedding in their newly-built house, which was damaged by mortar shrapnel fired by Indian gunners.
“Indian soldiers keep watching our activities and we live in a state of constant fear,” he said.
The two generals spoke hours after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar hit out at strident comments by Indian politicians over the clashes, and warned against “upping the ante” between the nuclear-armed neighbours. “We see warmongering,” Khar said at the Asia Society in New York late on Tuesday.
“It is deeply disturbing to hear statements which are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement.”
India says two of its soldiers have been killed, one of them beheaded, since hostilities erupted along the LoC. It has demanded the return of the soldier’s head which is still missing.
Khar again denied Indian accusations that Pakistani forces had beheaded one of the two soldiers and said an inquiry had found “no evidence” of the deaths. The two countries have fought three wars since their independence in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir. But Khar said they had to get over their “narrative of hostility”.
“The doors to dialogue are open,” Khar said. “We need to meet at any level, I think we need to call each other, we need to become mature countries which know how to handle their truth.”
On Tuesday India was meant to begin allowing Pakistanis over the age of 65 to obtain a visa on arrival at the border in Punjab.
However, the programme was put on hold indefinitely hours after Indian officials said it had come into force, although the delay was attributed to “technical” reasons.
Nine Pakistani players were also withdrawn from a new field hockey league in India and asked to return home just before Singh’s comments.IANS/AFP