A meeting of senior Indian and Pakistani army officers failed to defuse heightened tension between the neighbours after two jawans were murdered last week, and India's army chief alleged the attacks had been premeditated, threatening a “fitting reply”.
The flag meeting between the two sides, each led by a brigadier, fell flat after Pakistan denied all of India's allegations over the January 8 violation of the Line of Control in which one jawan was beheaded and the other had his throat slit.
Characterising the attack as an attempt to undermine the decade-old ceasefire, India also raised strong objections about the mutilation, saying it was against the Geneva Convention. Pakistan has been asked to return the head of the decapitated soldier, Lance Naik Hemraj Singh.
“We'll give them a fitting reply — we will respond at a time and place of our choosing,” army chief General Bikram Singh told a news conference ahead of Army Day, which falls on Tuesday.
HT had reported on Monday that the chief had given this message to his top general in Kashmir. The Opposition BJP seized on the issue, with its leader in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, saying that if India could not recover the head of Hemraj, it should bring back 10 Pakistani heads. “We should take revenge. Today, the country is demanding that we should not be proved a weak government,” Swaraj said while visiting Hemraj’s family in Shernagar in Uttar Pradesh.
The army chief is also expected to visit the bereaved kin.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Swaraj and offered to send National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon to brief her and her Rajya Sabha counterpart, Arun Jaitley, on Tuesday.
Refuting the Pakistani allegation that India had carried out a cross-border raid in the Uri sector on January 6, killing one of their soldiers and injuring another, the army chief said Pakistan was “planting lies” to justify its actions. He said the sequence of events clearly indicated that it was a planned attack as such a raid could not have been launched within 50 hours of the alleged January 6 operation by the Indian Army.
“These kind of operations require at least 10 days of planning,” he said, pointing out that detailed reconnaissance had to be conducted, logistics and firepower had to be organised and care had to be taken to ensure that no telltale signs were left behind.
Singh said he expected his commanders on the LoC to be aggressive and offensive. “I don't expect them to be timid. We will not be passive with firing if fired upon. We will respect the ceasefire as long as the adversary does,” he said.
He added that the Pakistani raid was a “tactical operation” that could be dealt with at the level of local commanders.