India on Wednesday summoned the Pakistan high commissioner to convey a "strong protest" over the Pakistani Army action in which two Indian soldiers were killed and their bodies subjected to "barbaric and inhuman mutilation" in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan high commissioner Salman Bashir was summoned by foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai, who made it clear that these incidents were "unacceptable" and that Pakistan has to uphold the sanctity of the Line of Control, according to official sources.
During the 30-minute meeting, Bashir was told by Mathai that regular Pakistani soldiers had crossed the LoC at Mendhar sector and engaged with Indian troops who were patrolling this sector.
"Two Indian soldiers were killed in the attack and their bodies subjected to barbaric and inhuman mutilation. The government of Pakistan was asked to immediately investigate these actions that are in contravention of international conduct and ensure that these will not recur," Bashir was told.
Later, foreign minister Salman Khurshid struck a note of caution and warned against further moves to inflame tensions. Khurshid said Pakistan's ambassador Salman Bashir had been "spoken to in very strong terms" after he was summoned for an angry rebuke over the killings. But in a subsquent press conference, Khurshid said that "whatever has happened, should not be escalated". "We cannot and must not allow for an escalation of a very unwholesome event that has taken place," he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Khurshid had said that New Delhi's response would be "proportionate." He said that senior government and military officials would decide a course of action over the "ghastly" incident.
The Pakistani army's treatment of two Indian soldiers who were killed along the border in Kashmir was "inhuman", defence minister AK Antony said on Wednesday.
"Pakistan army's action is highly provocative. The way they treated the dead body of the soldiers, Indian soldiers, is inhuman," he said after reports and military sources said one of the troops had been beheaded on Tuesday.
"We will convey our protest to the Pakistan government and our DGMO (director general of military operations) will talk to his counterpart in Pakistan. They are closely monitoring the situation," he told reporters.
Indian authorities said the body of one of the soldiers was "badly mutilated," while newspapers and a military source speaking to AFP indicated that he had been decapitated.
Army's Additional Director General (Public Information) Major General S L Narasimhan said Northern Army Commander Lt Gen K T Parnaik had visited the scene of action and confirmed that one of the two bodies was mutilated.
The bodies of both men have been brought to an army hospital in Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir where a post-mortem will confirm the extent of their injuries and whether one of them was beheaded, army spokesman Rajesh Kalia said.
One of the sergeants is from Uttar Pradesh, while the other is from the central state of Madhya Pradesh, he added.
In Islamabad a Pakistan military spokesman denied what he called an "Indian allegation of unprovoked firing", calling the Indian account of Tuesday's clash "propaganda to divert the attention of the world from Sunday's raid on a Pakistani post".
Pakistan's army said Indian troops crossed the Line of Control on Sunday and stormed a military post in an attack that left a Pakistani soldier dead and another injured. India has denied crossing the line.
India denied crossing the line, but a foreign ministry spokesman said Indian troops had undertaken "controlled retaliation" on Sunday after "unprovoked firing" that damaged a civilian home.
The clash took place in Mendhar sector, 173 kilometres (107 miles) west of the city of Jammu, the winter capital of the state.
Army sources said there had been further exchanges along the de facto border on Tuesday night which caused no damage and the border was calm on Wednesday morning.
"The Line of Control is steady and stable," Brigadier GS Sangha, one of the army's most senior officers in Kashmir, told AFP.
The two Indian soldiers died after a firefight broke out around noon as a patrol moving in foggy conditions discovered Pakistani troops about half a kilometre (1,600 feet) inside Indian territory, an army spokesman said.
A ceasefire has been in place along the Line of Control that divides the countries since 2003, but it is periodically violated by Pakistani troops.
"We lost two soldiers and one of them has been badly mutilated," he added, declining to give more details on the injuries.
"The intruders were regular (Pakistani) soldiers and they were 400-500 metres (1,300-1,600 feet) inside our territory," he said of the clash in Mendhar sector, 173 kilometres (107 miles) west by road from the city of Jammu.
Reports and a military source speaking to AFP indicated that the mutilated soldier may have been decapitated, but further investigations and a post-mortem were required to confirm this.
Relations between the neighbours had been slowly improving over the last few years following a rupture in their slow-moving peace process after the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, which were blamed by India on Pakistan-based militants.
The deaths deal a serious blow to efforts to ease tension in South Asia and improve diplomatic relations. Steps such as opening up trade and offering more lenient visa regimes have been a feature of recent high-level talks.
(With inputs from PTI, IANS, AFP)