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Truce prod at ‘turning point’

New Delhi, Jan. 11: India and Pakistan today advised each other to respect the ceasefire on the Line of Control and observe confidence-building measures agreed since 1999 but there was little evidence of de-escalation of tensions on the boundary.

The two sides exchanged fire last night across the LoC in Krishnaghati. There were reports late this evening of more firing, although the intensity is not known.

India has requested a flag-meeting of sector commanders near Mendhar in Poonch district near the LoC.

Defence secretary Shashikant Sharma is understood to have briefed national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and the Prime Minister’s Office on the situation.

Defence minister A.K. Antony described the killing and mutilation of the two Indian soldiers on January 8 as a “turning point at the moment”.

“It (ceasefire violation) is not an isolated incident. It is increasing from the last one year. Ceasefire violations are also increasing. It is a matter of concern to us and the tragic, provocative actions two days back, that was a turning point at the moment,” Antony said.

The defence minister said the cabinet committee on security had discussed the situation on Thursday. “We are closely monitoring the whole development and our entire border and Indian troops are on alert.”

In the Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan suspended the cross-LoC bus service and refused to allow trucks across the LoC trade point. But cross-border trade was reported to be normal through the Aman Setu in Uri, north of Poonch.

In Islamabad, Pakistan foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani summoned India’s envoy to protest the killing of a Pakistani soldier by Indian troops in the Mendhar sector yesterday.

Jilani conveyed to Indian high commissioner Sharat Sabharwal “a strong protest on the repeated, unacceptable and unprovoked attacks on Pakistani soldiers by the Indian Army”.

The Pakistani side claimed that “on January 10, 2013 at 1450 hrs, Indian troops shot and martyred a Pakistani soldier at Hotspring on the Line of Control (LoC)”.

Jilani asked the Indian government “to thoroughly investigate the repeated violations of the ceasefire along the Line of Control by Indian troops and also take necessary steps to ensure their non-recurrence”.

Jilani reiterated Pakistan’s offer to hold an independent inquiry into the recent incidents of ceasefire violations through the United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP).

The foreign ministry’s official spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin, said in New Delhi that Sabharwal conveyed to the Pakistan foreign secretary that Indian troops resorted to “controlled response” to the “unprovoked firing” by the Pakistan Army in Mendhar sector yesterday.

Sabharwal also said the “sanctity of the LoC” and that of the CBMs between the two countries should be honoured.

The high commissioner told Jilani that there was “unprovoked firing from Pakistan (along the LoC) in Mendhar sector and there was a controlled response from our side,” the spokesperson said.

The Indian side dismissed Pakistan’s suggestion regarding UNMOGIP stating it had “no relevance or role to play whatsoever” and disputes between the two sides should be resolved bilaterally as envisaged in the Simla Agreement of 1972. The Indian side said “instrumentalities (like the UNMOGIP) designed 40-years ago” do not offer any solutions to the current situation.

In its statement, the Pakistan foreign ministry stated that Jilani conveyed to the Indian envoy Pakistan’s “commitment to fully implement the ceasefire along the Line of Control and strongly urged the latter to abide and respect the ceasefire along the LoC, which is an important CBM that has worked well since 2003”.

Jilani “also emphasised that such unprovoked attacks were against the spirit of the ongoing peace process. These attacks not only vitiate the atmosphere but also create unnecessary and avoidable distractions in our efforts towards the peace process. Pakistan has pursued with seriousness the dialogue with India and has taken significant steps to create a peaceful environment”.

The Pakistan foreign ministry said: “Pakistan reiterates its commitment to a peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues through a sustained and result-oriented dialogue with India.”

On Pakistan refusing to allow trucks from India carrying goods to cross LoC trade point in Poonch district, the Indian spokesperson said “our officials are in talks”. He attributed the stoppage to “local circumstances”.

As many as 25 trucks carrying goods from India were not allowed to cross the LoC and enter PoK at Chakan-Da-Bagh, according to officials of the Trade Facilitation Centre at Poonch yesterday. According to agency reports, Pakistan also suspended Carvan-e-Aman bus service between PoK and Jammu and Kashmir. There would be no bus service on Monday.