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August 08, 2013

India: Pakistan Responsible for Soldiers' Deaths

by Anjana Pasricha

India is directly confronting Pakistan over a deadly ambush in Kashmir this week, accusing the Pakistani army of killing five Indian soldiers along the disputed Kashmir border. The government has warned that the incident could affect what have been warming ties between the rivals.
 
Defense Minister A.K. Antony told parliament Thursday that specialist troops of the Pakistani army were involved in a cross border attack in which five Indian soldiers died in Kashmir.
 
In a statement earlier this week, the minister had steered away from blaming the Monday night ambush on the Pakistani army. Instead, authorities accused the attackers of being terrorists and men dressed in Pakistani army uniforms.
 
Pakistani authorities denied playing any role in the incident. The Pakistani military says there was no exchange of fire along the heavily armed line of control that could have resulted in such casualties.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday it was imperative for both India and his nation to restore a ceasefire on the border.
 
Sharif said he looked forward to meeting his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, according to a statement issued after Sharif met Pakistani foreign ministry officials.
But an outcry by opposition parties that the government was taking a soft line with Pakistan has apparently led to the government hardening its position.
 
On Thursday, Antony said that it is well known that nothing happens on the disputed Kashmir border, also known as the LOC (line of control), without the knowledge, support and facilitation of Pakistani authorities.
 
Antony said those responsible for the ambush should not go “unpunished”.
 
“Naturally this incident will have consequences on our behavior along the LOC [line of control] and for our relationship with Pakistan," he said." Our restraint should not be taken for granted, nor should the capacity of our armed forces and resolve of the government to uphold the sanctity of the LOC ever be doubted. ”
 
In the lower house of parliament, the leader of the opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party, Sushma Swaraj welcomed the government’s statement.    
 
Swaraj said she is happy that the government has said that Pakistan should not take their relations for granted. She said the Indian parliament is sending a clear message that such incidents should not be repeated.
 
The funerals of the five soldiers who died in the Kashmir attack were held on Thursday.
 
The latest flare-up of tensions along the Kashmir border is one of the worst since the two countries signed a ceasefire in 2003. Analysts say it is almost certain to scuttle the resumption of peace talks that had been proposed by Pakistan. The talks had been put on hold following another cross border clash in January.    
 
The Congress-led government has been keen to engage with the new Pakistani government, which favors improved ties with India.
 
But analysts say suspicions run deep in New Delhi that the initiative by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to move ahead with peace talks with India is not backed by the army.