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IAF boss waves ‘other option’ sword at Pak

New Delhi, Jan. 12: The Indian Air Force chief has said that New Delhi may have “to look at some other options” to stop Pakistan’s violations of the Line of Control even as a seething army was looking within to plug defences.

Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, who is also the most senior military commander in the country and the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, did not elaborate what “other options” should be considered after the brutalisation of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops on January 8.

“Options are options. We do not discuss these options openly. If the violations continue, we may have to look at the whole issue all over again,” the air chief said.

There has been no response yet from Pakistan to the Indian request for an LoC flag-meeting.

Army chief General Bikram Singh has studiously stayed away from commenting publicly on the events on the LoC. Earlier this week, an invitation to the media to attend the NCC camp he was visiting was cancelled.

He is scheduled to address a customary news conference on Monday, the eve of Army Day. He is also scheduled to host an “At Home” reception at which the President and Prime Minister are expected to be present.

Yesterday, defence minister A.K. Antony had termed the killing of the two soldiers on January 8 “a turning point at the moment”.

“We have a Line of Control, we have a ceasefire agreement, we have certain structures and mechanisms which are sacrosanct and any violation of these with impunity especially (like what) has been happening in the last few months is totally unacceptable.

“We are monitoring the situation carefully because if these things continue to be the way they are and these violations continue to take place, then perhaps we may have to look at some other options for compliance,” Browne said after visiting an NCC camp.

The last army chief, and now activist, Gen. (retired) V.K. Singh also asked for a response from the government. “The government should harden its stand on the hostility shown by Pakistani forces which claimed lives of two jawans,” he said.

But even as New Delhi ponders military choices without wanting to rollback diplomatic engagement with Islamabad, there were efforts in the army to find out what went so wrong within its own defences that led to the killing of its two soldiers near Mendhar.

An army court of inquiry has been quietly asked to probe the circumstances and events of January 8 during which the Pakistani troops could cross over into Indian territory undetected and ambush the seven-member patrol of the 13 Rajputana Rifles.

A former army commander has suggested that the commanders at the post should be court-martialled even as the Indian military’s response to the violation of the LoC “must be like a sledgehammer with intensity that Pakistan cannot match”.

“No time to show sympathy or mollycoddle the tps (troops). Heads must role (sic). CO (commanding officer of the battalion) must be removed forthwith. A command failure,” tweeted Lt General (retired) H.S. Panag, who as a former northern army commander, knows the area of Nangi Tekri in Mendhar region of Poonch district well. He said the post/patrol commanders should be court-martialled.

“No army must accept such dereliction of duty and humiliation,” he wrote.

The current army commander who is responsible for all army movement in the north is Lt Gen. K.T. Parnaik.

Air Chief Marshal Browne said the repeated LoC violations should be taken seriously but, unlike Panag, he did not describe the ceasefire violation as “an act of war”.

Fresh firing on LoC

Indian and Pakistani troops traded heavy gunfire along the LoC in Poonch sector around 9.45pm on Saturday after the movement of six-seven suspected infiltrators was detected, reports PTI. There was no report of casualty or injury on the Indian side.