Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said Pakistan’s failure to investigate the killing of Indian troops in Kashmir meant an end to “business as usual,” sharpening the country’s diplomatic offensive against its long-time rival.
The two governments and their militaries have for more than a week traded accusations of deadly raids across the de facto frontier in the disputed Himalayan region, skirmishes that have become the biggest threat to improving ties since peace talks resumed two years ago. Pakistan accused India of an unprovoked attack that killed one of its soldiers late yesterday.
Indian army chief Bikram Singh and government officials have said that one of two soldiers killed by Pakistani troops Jan. 8 was beheaded. The Hindu newspaper reported the fighting may have been provoked by India’s building of a bunker near the so-called Line of Control.
Pakistan has denied its troops crossed the border and has accused New Delhi of propaganda to divert attention from what Pakistan’s army says was an unprovoked Indian attack two days earlier that killed one Pakistani soldier.
Responding to Khurshid, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar accused India of “warmongering” at an Asia Society event in New York yesterday. Khar said she was “deeply disappointed” by the Indian comments and said Pakistan did not want events on the disputed border to derail peace talks.
“We see warmongering, which puts the last 60 years actively back into our memories,” Khar said. “All I can say on behalf of my government that we feel that the dialogue process should be uninterrupted.”
Khurshid told reporters in New Delhi yesterday that Pakistan’s “brazen denial and lack of a proper response” to India’s diplomatic protests showed it was not serious about pursuing peace. Pakistan’s government was yesterday dealt a double blow as the Supreme Court ordered the prime minister’s arrest in a corruption case and an Islamic cleric rallied supporters in Islamabad.
The foreign minister’s statement “tries to assuage the feelings of India’s people, while it sends a strong signal to Pakistan that such incidents will have repercussions,” said Ashok K. Behuria, an analyst at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. “The developments will influence the rhythm of the relationship.”
Pakistan’s Director General of Military Operations will call his Indian counterpart on a hotline this morning to protest last night’s ceasefire violation, according to a statement by the nation’s army.
Amid the violations of a decade-old truce in Kashmir, the two countries have summoned each other’s diplomats while senior military officers have met near the border. The decapitation of the soldier brought demands for dialogue to be scrapped from opposition politicians in India.
“The government has deplored this grave provocation and repugnant act of the Pakistan army,” Khurshid said at a specially convened press briefing in the capital. It “leads us to draw appropriate conclusions about Pakistan’s seriousness in pursuing normalization of relations with India,” he said.
Some of the most serious cross-border clashes since 2003 between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, which resumed peace talks after a three-year break in ties over the Mumbai terrorist attack, have undermined a sustained bid to improve trade and ease travel restrictions. The nations have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which has been claimed by both since independence from British rule in 1947.
Right to Retaliate
General Singh said Jan. 14 that the attack almost a week earlier was “preplanned” and India reserved “the right to retaliate at the time and place of its choice.” At the same time, he vowed to “uphold the cease-fire as long as it is maintained.”
India broke off talks with its neighbor after Pakistani militants killed 166 people in the attack on Mumbai. India says the strike was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba guerrilla group with the support of some members of Pakistan’s security establishment. The government in New Delhi has criticized Pakistan for failing to prosecute those it holds responsible for the carnage.
Pakistan, which denies any state role in the attack, has begun a trial of some Lashkar members.
Nine Pakistani players playing in a professional Indian hockey league will return home after protests by Hindu nationalists objecting to their presence following the clashes on the border, according to NDTV television channel. The players will be paid in full for the remainder of this year’s contracts, NDTV said, citing Indian Hockey General Secretary Narinder Batra.