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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Under pressure, Pakistan asks its men to back off

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 16, 2013
First Published: 19:28 IST(16/1/2013) | Last Updated: 10:28 IST(17/1/2013)

A week to the day Pakistani troops brutally killed two Indian soldiers, the first signs of a thaw in the border tension came Wednesday with the Pakistani army asking its men on the Line of Control to strictly observe the ceasefire and exercise restraint.

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This was conveyed to the Indian Army's director general of military operations (DGMO), Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, by his counterpart, Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem.

The DGMOs spoke for 10 minutes on the phone two days after Pakistan denied any involvement in the killings at a flag meeting in Jammu's Poonch sector.

"An understanding has been arrived at between the two DGMOs to de-escalate the situation along the LoC," army spokesman Jagdeep Dahiya said.

The development comes on the heels of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement that it "can't be business as usual" and army chief Gen Bikram Singh's assertion that India would retaliate.

The reconciliatory move from Pakistan was a far cry from the tough stance its foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, took a day earlier, when she accused India of "warmongering" and "blowing things out of proportion".

"We see statements about proportionate response, statements that India has the capability to respond, we see warmongering," Khar told a New York think tank Tuesday.

In contrast, she said, Pakistan's response has been pacificatory in nature.

There was no formal Indian reaction to Khar's statement. But government sources said the PM had made India's position very clear.

In New Delhi, sources at the prime minister's office said Manmohan Singh's "not business as usual" statement came after an entire week of waiting for "Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to speak to lower tensions and condemn the killings".

"But when Pakistan only fielded its foreign minister to respond to the tensions, it became clear the highest in the civilian government were either not willing to speak or not being allowed to speak by the army," an official said.

Meanwhile, the army chief visited slain soldier Lance Naik Hemraj Singh's village of Khairar Sher Nagar, 55 km from Mathura in UP, on Wednesday.

Asserting that the Indian Army valued human rights, Gen Bikram Singh reiterated: "We do not violate the ceasefire or cross the LoC, but we do have to retaliate if fired upon. If there is any casualty on the other side, it might have happened during the crossfire."

Accompanied by his wife, Surjeet Kaur, he assured the grieving relatives that they were all part of the "big army family".

Inputs from HTC Washington, Mathura


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