India protests to Pakistan on LoC firing (Roundup)

July 29th, 2008 - 8:03 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Srinagar, July 29 (IANS) India Tuesday lodged a strong protest against the unprovoked firing by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, even as Defence Minister A.K. Antony urged Islamabad to respect the ceasefire that has been in place since 2003. The protest was lodged when Lt Gen A.S. Sekhon, the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) at the Army Headquarters in New Delhi, spoke to his Pakistani counterpart, Maj Gen Nasir Janjua, on the hotline, a defence ministry official said.

The DGMOs normally speak to each other once a week on Tuesdays and their conversation acquired added importance due to the LoC firing that began Monday afternoon and continued till early Tuesday morning.

Indian and Pakistani Army commanders also held a flag meeting on the LoC Tuesday and agreed to restore normalcy in the area.

In a statement issued in New Delhi, Antony said: “Pakistan must fully respect the ceasefire agreed to between the two sides and adhere to the already existing mechanism” to deal with border violations.

An Indian soldier, identified as Sepoy Mahesh Kumar of the 22 Rajput Regiment, and four Pakistani troops were killed in the firing after a group of 10-12 soldiers intruded into Indian territory in the Nowgom area of north Kashmir.

It was the most serious truce violation in the past five years and comes in the wake of 18 other violations by Pakistani troops since January.

Antony, in his statement said: “We have urged that Pakistan must fully respect the ceasefire agreed to between the two sides and to adhere to the already existing mechanism to deal with violations through local flag meetings and DGMO-level talks in order to resolve an issue.

“Keeping in view the increased attempts to infiltrate, the counter-infiltration grid has been suitably strengthened by our troops to check such incidents,” Antony said.

“The government is fully prepared to deal with any such instances firmly while maintaining adequate restraint to prevent escalation of tension,” he added.

The minister also noted that the “increase in the ceasefire violations has been a matter of concern and is being constantly reviewed by the government from time to time.

“A total of 19 such incidents have occurred since January 2008 and a large number of incidents have occurred in the months of June and July. These are the usual months when maximum attempts are made by the terrorists,” Antony said.

The flag meeting took place at Tithwal in the Tangdhar sector of the LoC in north Kashmir.

“The meeting started at 12 noon and ended after one hour,” army sources in Kashmir’s summer capital of Srinagar said, without divulging details of what happened at the meeting.

Giving details of the incident, the defence ministry official in New Delhi said: “At 15:30 in the afternoon (Monday), a Pakistani patrol of 10-12 soldiers in uniform approached our surveillance detachment approximately 300 metres on our side of the LoC, objecting to its location and asked for a meeting with the commanding officer.

“During the interaction, one of the Pakistani soldiers, possibly on sighting our patrol in the vicinity, opened fire, fatally injuring a sentry at the post,” the official said.

“This led to opening of fire in retaliation. The Pakistani post in the vicinity thereafter opened unprovoked firing on our posts in the area. Interim firing between the posts continued till early morning today (Tuesday),” the official added.

The Indian Air Force (IAF), meanwhile, categorically denied reports of Indian air space being violated by a Pakistani aircraft Tuesday.

“There has been no violation today (Tuesday) or in the recent past,” an IAF spokesman told IANS in New Delhi.

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