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Call to hold fire on LoC

New Delhi, Jan. 16: The Pakistan Army has asked its troops to maintain ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) “strictly”, an Indian Army source said after talks between top officials of the two countries.

The Pakistan director-general of military operations (DGMO), Major General Ashfaq Nadeem, telephoned his Indian counterpart, Lt General Vinod Bhatia, and told him “troops have been ordered to be restrained and not allow the situation to escalate”, the source said.

But Geo News of Pakistan reported that Maj. Gen. Nadeem called to register Pakistan's protest over India’s violation along the LoC. The Pakistan Army said that Indian troops violated the ceasefire on Tuesday-Wednesday night in Hot Spring and Jandrot sectors between 10 and 11pm, killing a soldier. The charge was denied by the Indian Army, which alleged that Pakistani forces fired four times across the border on Tuesday.

Since Sunday, Indian commanders on the LoC were given directives to retaliate with a volley of small arms and machine gun fire to any shooting from the Pakistani side. The directives also asked battalions to seek the nod of the higher command if the firing required the support of artillery. The directives were meant for commanders in three brigade sectors along the LoC’s western stretch.

India hardened its political resolve on Tuesday when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said relations with Pakistan “could not be business as usual” after the killings of two Indian soldiers on January 8.

The army chief, General Bikram Singh, had said on Sunday that his troops “will retaliate at a place and time of our own choosing”, a statement that Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar described as “warmongering”.

“What do we see today? We see three incidents across the LoC. We see warmongering which puts the last 60 years actively back into our memory. Warmongering coming in from the other side of the border which is, I thought, the thing of yesteryears, thing that we had put behind us,” agencies quoted Khar as saying in New York.

On Wednesday, Gen. Bikram Singh visited the family of Lance Naik Hem Raj — alleged to have been beheaded by Pakistani troops who breached the LoC.

“Our jawans don't cross LoC. We honour human rights. We fire in retaliation when provoked,” he said. The army chief is likely to visit the family of Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh in Siddhi, Madhya Pradesh, on Friday.

The DGMO-level talks are an institutionalised mechanism. Normally, the two DGMOs talk on the telephone hotline every Tuesday. Since the Indian DGMO was busy with Army Day functions on Tuesday, the call came on Wednesday.

Gen. Bikram Singh said of the Pakistani charge — that one of its soldiers was killed — that “these are normal activities that take place at LoC. We have retaliated in response to firing from across the line”.

Indian Army sources said Pakistani troops fired at their positions four times on Tuesday, the last being at around 11pm in the Nangi Tekri area. “We gave a controlled response,” the sources said. The army now counts 14 ceasefire violations by Pakistan in the 16 days this year.