A jawan keeps watch on the LoC in Poonch on Monday. (PTI)
Kochi, Aug. 12: Defence minister A.K. Antony today said the armed forces can respond to aggression on the Line of Control as they will but refused to take questions on India’s strategy against attacks on the disputed boundary.
Citing parliamentary privilege, Antony refused to answer whether New Delhi had a strategy to counter alleged acts of aggression, such as the killing of five Indian soldiers in the Poonch sector last week.
“(The) armed forces have the freedom to respond to the developing situation there (on the LoC) appropriately,” the defence minister said when asked if he had set a policy for the army in dealing with firing from the Pakistan side.
But a defence official underlined the use of “developing situation” in Antony’s only comment to a flurry of questions at a news conference here to convey that the government was still trying to gauge where the frequent firing across the LoC was headed.
Antony was in Kochi for the launch of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-I (IAC) from the shipyard here as the vessel hit water. It is expected to be commissioned into the naval fleet in end-2018.
But Antony also underscored three important “achievements” over the last five days — the nuclear reactor going “critical” in the indigenous submarine INS Arihant, the test-firing of the nuclear-capable Prithvi II missile on the Odisha coast this morning, and the launch of the IAC, to be named INS Vikrant.
Between the landmarks of the Arihant and the Vikrant, however, army sources in the Northern Command reported that Pakistan had violated the ceasefire thrice in the past five days.
Extremely wary after the row over his statement to Parliament last week before he accused Pakistan’s “specialist forces” of killing five Indian soldiers, the defence minister was today distinctly uncomfortable about addressing the subject.
“When Parliament is in session, I don’t want to say anything about my statement in Parliament,” he said.
The minister is likely to speak to Parliament again this week explaining why a media release issued by his ministry and his first statement to the House on the Poonch killings did not match and why the ministry statement was altered.
Antony was criticised for his first statement to both Houses of Parliament in which he said the intruders were “terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan army uniform” while the Indian Army’s statement described the attackers as “soldiers from the Pakistan army”.
He made a new statement to Parliament on Thursday after being briefed by the army chief, General Bikram Singh, who had visited Jammu.