Ceasefire violations cause for concern, says Antony as firing resumes

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 20:01 hrs

New Delhi: Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged gunfire at the Line of Control (LoC) again Friday as Defence Minister A.K Antony said the ceasefire violations were a matter of "serious concern".

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was briefed on the tense border situation as Islamabad summoned Indian envoy Sharat Sabharwal to protest the killing of a Pakistani soldier a day ago.

"We are closely monitoring the whole development and our people are on alert," Antony said, adding that the Indian Army's Director General Military Operations had been directed to be in touch with his Pakistani counterpart.

"We will take every step to protect our interests and of our soldiers and the prestige of the Indian armed forces," he said.

National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon briefed the prime minister on the situation.

"NSA briefed the prime minister as he is doing regularly since the situation began," an official told IANS.

Informed sources said before meeting the prime minister, Menon had discussed the situation with top army and defence ministry officials.

The Indian army has sought a flag meeting at the brigadier level in the Poonch sector but had not got a response as yet from Pakistan, said sources.

Indian High Commissioner Sabharwal told Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani in Islamabad that Indian troops had given a "controlled response" to "unprovoked" firing by Pakistani troops in the Mendhar sector along the Jammu and Kashmir border Thursday, the external affairs ministry spokesperson said.

He also told the Pakistanis that the sanctity of the LoC "is the most important confidence building measure between India and Pakistan".

The two countries agreed to a ceasefire along the winding LoC, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, in 2003. The truce has largely held on in the past decade.

The spokesman also reiterated India's refusal to involve any third party to probe the allegations and counter allegations from the two countries on the LoC.

India and Pakistan "have a mechanism to bilaterally solve such issues", the official said.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated in Kashmir since Jan 6 when a Pakistani soldier was killed allegedly by Indian troops.

Two days later, two Indian soldiers were killed and beheaded near the LoC. Indian officials blamed Pakistani troops for the horror.

India summoned the Pakistani envoy Thursday to lodge a strong protest.

Sabharwal was Friday served a "note verbale" after Pakistan alleged that Indian firing and shelling along the LoC killed one of its soldiers.

Pakistani troops Friday again opened fire at Indian posts close to the LoC in the Krishna Ghati sector, around 250 km from Jammu, in the afternoon.

"The army offered a calibrated response to silence Pakistani guns," said a source. The firing lasted for half an hour.

"There were no casualties on this (Indian) side," the source said.

Pakistan has been firing on Indian positions daily violating the 2003 ceasefire agreement after its troops killed two Indian soldiers near LoC Tuesday.

Pakistan has suspended the cross LoC bus service between Chakan-da-bagh in Jammu and Kashmir and Rawalkote in Pakistan-administered Kashmir "for the time being", an official in Poonch said.

Pakistan also did not open its gates to allow trucks loaded with perishable items to pass to India. Talks between officials of the two sides in on to sort out allowing the trucks and buses, an official said.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Friday said peace on the border was in the interest of the people of the state as they have to "bear the brunt of the hostility between the two countries".

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