Tensions between India and Pakistan along the de facto Kashmir border continued to simmer Wednesday with at least four instances of ceasefire violations reported by the Indian media since Monday’s flag meeting between the army commanders from both sides to de-escalate the situation.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar accused India of “warmongering” after the Pakistani army reported Wednesday the killing of one of its soldiers, the fifth casualty in the recent border skirmish.
"It is deeply disturbing to hear statements which are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement," Khar said at the Asia Society in New York Wednesday.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday said it “cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan after the deadly exchanges, adding that the killings of two Indian soldiers last week, one of whom India says was beheaded, were “unacceptable.”
"What happened at LoC is unacceptable," Singh said in Delhi on the eve of the Army Day. "I hope Pakistan realizes this. I hope Pakistan will bring the perpetrators to book,” he said.
The Pakistani army alleged that Indian troops started an "unprovoked" cross-border fire at 10 p.m. Tuesday that lasted for an hour in the Hot Spring and Jandot sectors of Pakistan-held Kashmir, the Associated Press reported. The soldier who was killed was identified as Naik Ashraf.
Two Indian soldiers and three Pakistani soldiers have died in the past 10 days near the Line of Control (LoC) in the worst bout of violence since both nations declared a ceasefire in November 2003.
However, the Press Trust of India reported Monday that two Indian soldiers were decapitated by the Pakistani troops in 2011, an incident which the Indian authorities chose to keep a secret.
In July 2011, Havildar Jaipal Singh Adhikari and Lance Naik Devender Singh of the Rajput regiment in Kupwara district were killed and their bodies were “badly mutilated” in a firefight with militants along the border, India Today reported.
Responding to a question on beheadings of Indian soldiers in the past by the Pakistani army, Indian Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh said Monday: "Yes, this has happened. We cannot conceal this fact.”
New Delhi and Islamabad signed a landmark agreement last month to ease visa restrictions and was set to begin a visa-on-arrival system for senior Pakistani citizens at the Wagah crossing. The scheme has been put on hold, but India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said that the process was not “called off.”
Khar, however, alleged that New Delhi was “going back on existing relaxed visa regime.”
"This is not a tit for tat," she said.
Prior to a flag meeting with Pakistani army commanders along the LoC, Indian Army Chief Bikram Singh said at a press conference Monday that Indian troops would not hesitate to retaliate if provoked.
Terming the beheading of one of the Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops as "gruesome" and “unpardonable,” Singh said: "We reserve the right to retaliate at a time and place of our choosing."
Singh said that the possibility of Pakistan using terrorists to infiltrate into India couldn’t be ruled out.
Some political commentators have said that India’s parliamentary elections due in 2014 may have something to do with the Indian government’s war rhetoric over the cross-border raids.
“There was no public outrage [over the 2011 killings] and this incident did not impact on the on-going dialogue between the two countries,” B. Raman, former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, wrote in a blog post.
“Why this difference in our reactions to the 2011 and 2013 beheadings? The answer is simple. In 2011, the election year 2014 was far away. In 2013, it is just a few months away,” he wrote.
“The new government activism and toughness seem to be more opportunistic and tactical than genuine and strategic,” he wrote.
“Any euphoria that the government has at last woken up to the ground reality of a hostile Pakistan will be unwarranted. It is essentially a pre-poll charade to deny (key opposition) BJP any pre-poll gains due to the public outrage. The charade will continue till the public outrage continues. Thereafter, we will again be back to business as usual," he says.