Despite the public outrage at the bestial treatment of Indian soldiers by Pakistan during a Line of Control confrontation, both countries seem keen to keep the peace momentum going.
In India, not only was there no demand for a fitting punishment to Pakistan’, also missing was the clamour of hot pursuit that usually accompanies such attacks.
While Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told reporters the issue must not be allowed to escalate, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley asked the government to place all facts before the international community to name and shame’ Islamabad.
Only the Shiv Sena did advocate retaliation, that too by curtailing cricketing ties, suggesting there are now more stakeholders in the political spectrum for peace with Pakistan than ever before.
This is significant, given that Pakistan reportedly came 200 metres into Indian territory to decapitate the Indian soldiers and take away the head of one of them.
The BJP merely said: “As far as this unprovoked attack is concerned, it is now incumbent on the government of India, since Pakistan still continues to give denial, to collect the entire evidence, including the identity of those Pakistani army officials and the groups guarding the particular area who are responsible for this assault, place all these facts before the international community so that Pakistan can be named and shamed before the world at large for this brutal attack.”
Notably, it was Defence Minister A K Antony who took a more aggressive position. “The Pakistan Army’s action is highly provocative. The way they treated the dead bodies of Indian soldiers is inhuman. We will convey our protest to Pakistan government and our DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) will talk to his counterpart. We are closely following the situation,” he told reporters in Kochi.
According to Pakistani media reports, Pakistan’s DGMO Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem talked to his Indian counterpart Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia on a hotline and rejected the Indian army’s “allegations of cross-LoC firing by Pakistani troops and killing any Indian soldier”. The reports also quoted anonymous Pakistani military officials as saying “the Indian authorities were informed that Pakistan has carried out ground verification and checked and found nothing of this sort happened”.
Indian officials, however, refused to get drawn into a claim-counterclaim battle with the Pakistanis and said their response was on predictable lines: denying the identity of those who had carried out the killings and attributing it to the actions of independent jihadis.
However, some Indian analysts, who did not want to be named, said it could be a response to another incident in the Uri sector a few days ago when India’s action was “needlessly aggressive’. It is the timing of the incident that baffles policymakers.
Former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal implied the US was mollycoddling Pakistan, (as reflected in a statement made by the US that both sides should show restraint. This, he said, could have been prompted by the drawdown of the International Stabilisation Force from Afghanistan this year and 2014 and the need to repair US-Pakistan relations, following the realisation that Pakistan will have to hold the fort after that.
Some policymakers also saw in the incident a flash of the tension between the army and the civilian government in Pakistan and the need for the army to assert itself as that country prepared for elections later this year. Sources in covert agencies in India, however, cautioned against an over-interpretation of an event that was just a little worse than normal”. “This (the Mendhar sector south of the Pir Panjal) is a region where this sort of thing keeps happening. This incident was worse than the usual clashes. But we should not make too much of it” they said.