Government on Tuesday said the killing of 5 Indian soldiers on the Line of Control was carried out by 'terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniform', triggering strong reactions from political parties which said it amounted to giving 'escape route' to Pakistan.
File photo of defence minister AK Antony at Palam Airport in New Delhi. HT/Arvind Yadav
Members cutting across party lines expressed anger in Parliament over this morning's incident, prompting defence minister AK Antony to assert that India will take "necessary steps" to uphold the sanctity of the LoC and give a response which will be based on "signals" and "actions" by Pakistan.
Most of the political parties, including BJP, Left, SP, JD(U), Shiv Sena and BSP in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha demanded a "befitting reply" to Pakistan over the provocative act in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
There were also demands that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should not meet his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York next month on the sidelines of UN General Assembly as is planned.
Making suo motu statement in both the Houses, Antony said the attack was carried out on the Indian side of the LoC.
An Indian army patrol, comprising one Non-Commissioned Officer and five other ranks, was "ambushed on our side" of the LoC in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, he said.
"The ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily-armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan army uniform," he said.
"In the ensuing firefight, five Indian soldiers were martyred and one soldier was injured," he said.
Strongly condemning the "unprovoked incident", Antony said, "I assure the House that our army is fully ready to take all necessary steps to uphold the sanctity of LoC."
He said the "morale of armed forces is very high" and they are capable of handling the situation.
His remarks about involvement of terrorists in the attack triggered angry reactions by political parties, which said it amounted to giving an "escape route" to Pakistan which already claims that its army is not responsible.
However, Antony stuck to his version, saying "my statement is based on confirmed reports received till the time I made the statement...At this stage we don't want to jump to any conclusion."
India has lodged a strong protest with the Pakistan government through diplomatic channels, Antony said, adding government conveys its condolences to the families of the martyrs who made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty.
Replying to demands for retaliation, he said, "India is a responsible country" and a unity among political parties would be the "strongest answer to our enemies".
He said the capabilities of the armed forces are being strengthened and their morale is very high.
His statement came after anger being expressed by parties with some like BJP and Samajwadi Party questioning as to why the government was feeling "completely helpless" in the face of repeated aggression by Pakistan.
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha even questioned whether the Congress was serious in dealing with Pakistan sternly.
In the Rajya Sabha, leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said Antony's contention that the attack was carried out by "persons dressed in Pakistan army uniform" provides "an escape route" to Pakistan which has always been in a state of denial, even in Kargil where it said 'non-State actors' were involved.
Demanding a "befitting reply", he said there is a "need to modulate our foreign policy to send a message to Pakistan that these kinds of attacks will not be tolerated." He also mentioned repeated incursions by Chinese troops and wanted to know what the government was doing.
Referring to the plans for organising a meeting of the Prime Minister with Sharif in New York, the BJP leader said the government should not forget that the country's interest is supreme.