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PM says no business as usual with Pakistan

New Delhi, Jan 15 (PTI): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday gave a tough message to Pakistan that it cannot be business as usual in the aftermath of the beheading of an Indian soldier on the Line of Control last week.

He emphasised that those responsible for the “barbaric act” of beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj will have to be brought to book and hoped “Pakistan realises this”.

In his public remarks on the January 8 incident on the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir in which two soldiers were killed and their bodies mutilated, Singh said: “After this barbaric act there cannot be business as usual (with Pakistan).”

He was responding to reporters' questions here at the Army Day reception hosted by Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh when asked about the government's decision to put on hold visa-on-arrival scheme for Pakistan's elderly citizens.

When pointed out that Pakistan was in a denial mode on the cross-LoC attack, the Prime Minister said, “we will keep trying”.

Asked about the options vis-a-vis Pakistan, he said these cannot be discussed in the open.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said India has taken a “very firm position” on the beheading issue with Pakistan as the act is “totally unacceptable and barbaric”.

Referring to Monday’s Flag Meeting between India and Pakistan on the LoC, he said, “we may not be happy with the outcome but the process is still on.”

On the government's decision to put visa-on-arrival on hold, Khurshid said it has not been called off but only deferred. “Nobody has utilised it as yet,” he added.

Asked whether India has set any timeline for Pakistan to act, Khurshid said, “there is no timeline. But we are actually pressing (Pakistan) very hard.”

He indicated that the incident would have impact on the bilateral engagement with Pakistan although there would not be total freeze.

The incident would be factored in while scheduling meetings etc, the External Affairs Minister said.

At the same time, he said there was no precedent to show what can be done in the present situation.

Replying to questions, he said the army's view will be considered in whatever decision the government takes.

“We should not take a final, conclusive and definitive position on anything... We can take a view that it was totally unacceptable and barbaric... To have a final conclusion will have adverse effect,” Khurshid said.

On the repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan, he said, “one violation is too many. But we live in a real world. It is not an utopian world.”