Villagers gather to look at the tail of an unexploded mortar shell at Jerda village in Jammu’s Samba district on Monday. (PTI)
Srinagar, Oct. 21: Omar Abdullah today urged the Centre to look at “options other than words” if Pakistan continues to violate the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, the first time the chief minister has favoured tit-for-tat action.
“If they violate the ceasefire, we won’t respond by words only. We will have to find some other options,” Omar said hours after Pakistani Rangers pounded 20 to 25 Indian positions on the International Border in Jammu and a day before home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s trip to the region.
A BSF jawan and a police officer were injured in the firing that continued through last night. Scores of residents, mainly women and children, have fled their homes on the border to escape the firing.
A BSF official said his forces retaliated and the exchange continued for several hours. Two days ago, villagers in the area had complained of the “most intense” shelling since Kargil.
Shinde will take stock of the situation in Jammu tomorrow and chair a unified command meeting that Omar is scheduled to attend along with senior army and security officers.
Omar’s outburst today came at an event he was addressing on the occasion of Police Martyrs’ Commemoration Day on Srinagar’s outskirts.
“I request the Centre to take up with Pakistan this issue in very strong words, that we are not ready to tolerate it (the ceasefire violations). If our people living along the borders are being targeted, we also know how to respond in kind.”
Omar said people in border villages were leaving their homes and farms, and children their schools. “The reason is that Pakistan is violating the ceasefire.”
Omar later told reporters the firing from the across the border could not remain one-sided. “It cannot be a situation where we are at the receiving end and no response is given… the Centre should explore other options if Pakistan continues to violate the ceasefire.”
The chief minister hastened to add, however, that the two countries should first explore talks between their directors-general of military operations (DGMO), as agreed on by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif during their meeting last month in New York.
“That (DGMO talks) has not happened so far. I believe this is an option that needs to be exercised, failing which obviously, the government of India will have to look at responding in kind.”
Omar also used the occasion to hit out at Sharif, saying he couldn’t understand whether the Pakistan Prime Minister had a hand in the border flare-up or had no control over the situation. “I cannot understand why one step (ceasefire) that the leaders of both countries achieved and that benefited the state, is being repeatedly harmed now.”
The chief minister said he wanted to see the defeat of “forces” trying to disturb the situation in Kashmir through guns or words. “There are persistent efforts to destabilise Kashmir. Look at the borders, where there is one ceasefire violation after another.”
On Sharif’s demand yesterday for US intervention in Kashmir, Omar iterated the Centre’s position that India would not accept any such move. “Make it clear that no sort of mediation or any sort of role of third party exists… The Pakistani Prime Minister is guilty of playing to his home audience.”
Omar pointed out that one of the key aspects of the Tashkent agreement was that Pakistan would give up its claim to any third-party mediation for return of territories India had won in the 1965 war. “For some reason, Pakistan wants to forget aspects of these agreements that do not suit it.”
Army boss briefs AK
Army chief General Bikram Singh today briefed defence minister A.K. Antony on the situation along the Line of Control and International Boundary in Jammu and Kashmir.
Army sources have noted with some concern that ceasefire violations are now no longer contained to the LoC. Over the last three days, there have been 32 violations in Jammu along a stretch that India defines as the International Boundary but Pakistan calls a “working boundary”. About seven villages have been evacuated.
Of the total 200 ceasefire violations that the army counts this year, about 170 have been on the LoC.
The DGMOs of India and Pakistan are likely to be talking over a telephone hotline tomorrow. They usually speak every Tuesday if not more often.
PTI reported that Pakistan today claimed that two of its civilians were killed in “unprovoked” firing by Indian security forces along the LoC.