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LoC quiet, no rush for talks

New Delhi, Jan. 17: The Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir has been tense but quiet since top military officers of India and Pakistan had a 10-minute conversation in which they agreed to adhere to the ceasefire.

The Indian Army counts 14 ceasefire violations in the first two weeks of this year, most of the exchanges since January 8 when two Indian soldiers were mutilated and killed.

Defence minister A.K. Antony and foreign affairs minister Salman Khurshid are understood to have briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security that met today. But India is unlikely to respond immediately to Pakistan foreign affairs minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s offer for talks.

The Indian Director General of Military Operations, Lt General Vinod Bhatia, and his Pakistan counterpart, Major General Ashfaq Nadeem, talked over telephone on Wednesday.

But there is no response from Pakistan to India’s demand for the head of the decapitated soldier, Lance Naik Hem Raj. Pakistan has denied that its troops were involved in the killing and breach of the Line of Control.

Hina Rabbani Khar’s offer of ministerial-level talks is a shift from the earlier-stated Pakistan policy of involving the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to investigate the incidents. India is against the involvement of a third party.

Clearly unenthusiastic about Khar’s offer for a “discussion and dialogue” with him, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said here that direct talks between ministers do not happen in a rush.

In a statement from Islamabad on Wednesday, Khar said: “...It is advisable for the two countries to discuss all concerns related to the LoC with a view to reinforcing respect for the ceasefire, may be at the level of the foreign ministers, to sort out things.”

In his response, Khurshid said in a television interview that he would move slowly. “Direct talks between counterparts don’t just come in a jiffy; you sort of work up gradually or work towards something,” he said.

“You can’t these days particularly, with everything in the media focus, you can’t get into a meeting ill-prepared and then walk out of the meeting, and then everybody tells the world that the whole thing has collapsed ”

He said he would seek the directions of the Prime Minister. Manmohan Singh had said on Army Day (January 15) that relations with Pakistan “cannot be business as usual” after the killings of the soldiers.