New Delhi: Angry at the beheading of an Indian soldier on Line of Control, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh on Monday issued a clear warning to Pakistan saying India reserves the right to retaliate at the "time and place" of its choosing.
Talking tough over the January 8 incident in Mendhar area of Jammu and Kashmir, he said the beheading was "unacceptable" and "most unpardonable" and the troops would respond immediately, aggressively and offensively if provoked.
Slamming Pakistan for planting lies to justify the "pre-meditated and pre-planned" cross-LoC attack, he said Pakistan army's commando unit SSG had carried out the assault.
He did not rule out the possibility of Lashker-e-Taiba terrorists providing help to Pakistan army in the assault in which two Indian soldiers were killed, one of them beheaded.
"It (beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj) is unacceptable and unpardonable. It is barbaric. It defies all logic. It is against the very rules of engagement. It is against the ethics of soldiering... We are annoyed," the Army Chief said addressing a press conference on the eve of Army Day.
Beheading incident is a repeat of last year?
He revealed that Pakistani army had beheaded two Indian soldiers earlier also. "Yes, this has happened. We cannot conceal this fact," he said when asked whether two jawans of Kumaon regiment had been beheaded by Pakistani army over a year back.
Asserting that the Pakistani army "needs to be accountable", he said, "we reserve the right to retaliate at the time and place of our choosing."
'A tactical error on part of the Indian army'
Replying to a volley of questions during the nearly two-hour interaction, Gen Singh said he expected the Indian commanders "to be aggressive and offensive in the face of provocation. I don't expect my commanders to be timid... We shall not be passive when fired at. Therefore, when fired at, when provoked, we shall respond."
He said that there was prima facie some "tactical error" on part of the Indian army unit involved and "corrective measures" will be taken.
'Pak should be pressurized to return Hemraj's head'
Gen Singh said the Pakistan Army should be pressurised to return the head of Lance Naik Hemraj who was beheaded by its troops in Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Army Chief said he would also visit the home of Hemraj whose family has been on a fast for the last six days demanding that his head be brought back from Pakistan.
"We have to make the Pakistan Army accountable. There are diplomatic, political ways of doing it. As far as the Army is concerned, increasing force and violence is a national decision. We want the head back but what do you when a country and its Army are in denial mode?
"I think we should pressurise them nationally and internationally as part of our national element so that they are made accountable and they are made to return the head of our soldier which they have taken away," he said in his annual Army day press conference here.
Gen Singh said that for getting the head back, "it will be taken up at the government level and you will have to appreciate that this has to to be done through diplomatic channels.
"It will also be conveyed to the DGMO. It is also being conveyed today in no uncertain terms. Let us see if Pakistan Army heeds to our protest rpt protest and complies to it," he said.
Army chief against diluting AFSPA
Gen Singh on Monday said he did not favour dilution of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir as it was "an enabler" for soldiers to fight militancy in an asymmetric environment.
Answering a query on AFPSA at his press conference on eve of the Army Day, Bikram Singh said that soliders in the state work in an environment where it was difficult to differentiate between friend and foe as militants mingle with civilian population.
He said the soldiers face a great deal of challenges and they need to be given "enablers" to operate against militants.
"These are enablers. They give additional powers," he said.
"There should not be dilution of AFPSA."
The army chief stressed that any decision to on AFPSA must be taken after taking views of all stakeholders.
To a question about Siachen, Bikram Singh said the area was of strategic significance and should be held by the country.
He said that Army had shed blood to retain the area and gains made should be retained.
Bikram Singh said any thought to demilitarization of the area had to be given in the backdrop of trust deficit with Pakistan.
"It has to be conscious, pragmatic decision," he said.
We didn't violate border truce: Pakistan Army
Pakistan on Monday rejected allegations of ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir levelled against it by the Indian Army during a flag meeting Monday, a media report said.
During the flag meeting held between the Pakistani and Indian army commanders at the LoC, Pakistan asked India to abide by the ceasefire agreement between the countries with regard to Kashmir, DawnNews reported.
The Pakistani army brigadier in Poonch sector also participated in the meet in which, the Pakistani commanders rejected the allegations levelled against them by their Indian counterparts.
The Indian commanders accused their Pakistani counterparts for firing across the border. The Pakistan Army, however, registered their protest against Indian violations of the ceasefire at the LoC, the Pakistani daily quoted military sources as saying.
The Pakistani Army also demanded that India comply with the ceasefire agreement.