The Indian Army on Tuesday described the killing and mutilation of two of its soldiers as dastardly and inhuman and told its Pakistani counterpart that the incident merited an unequivocal response.
But Pakistan denied its troops were involved in Monday’s attack on an Indian patrol in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between the two countries.
India reacted sharply and the director general of military operations, Lt Gen AK Bhatt, conveyed a strong message to his Pakistani counterpart during a hotline phone call.
Such a “dastardly and inhuman act is beyond any norms of civility and merits unequivocal condemnation and response”, a statement quoted Bhatt.
The DGMOs speak every Tuesday, a mechanism put in place to avoid skirmishes along the LoC. The latest incident threatens to deepen hostilities as surcharged calls rang out across India to “teach the Pakistanis a lesson”.
The ambush, backed by mortar shelling and machine gun fire, on a 10-member patrol comprising BSF and army soldiers killed naib subedar Paramjit Singh, a 42-year-old junior commissioned officer with 22 Sikh Regiment, and 45-year-old head constable Prem Sagar of the BSF’s 200 Battalion.
Their bodies were found beheaded at the Krishna Ghati sector.
Army vice chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand said the Pakistani army would have to accept responsibility and face consequences for its action, which reflected its frustration.
“We don’t want to talk about what we will do. We will do what we have to do at the time and place of our choosing,” he said in New Delhi.
Defence minister Arun Jaitley promised that the soldiers’ sacrifice won’t go in vain. The beheading is understood to have featured in his discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. But there was no official word on it.
Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu called Pakistan a rogue state and said the government would take appropriate action against the nation for the brutal killings. Also, he blamed Pakistan for funding terrorism and fomenting trouble in Kashmir.
India had furnished proof of Pakistan sponsoring a secessionist movement in the Kashmir Valley, a region that has been recording street protests almost every day of late. The unrest forced the Election Commission to countermand the Anantnag Lok Sabha bypoll for the second time, saying the situation was “scary”.
According to Indian military intelligence, Monday’s attack was conducted by the neighbours’ Border Action Team (BAT), which is said to be a mix of army regulars and militant mercenaries who do the establishment’s bidding.
Members of the rogue squad sneaked more than 200 metres into the Indian side of the LoC and ambushed the patrol when Pakistani forces were engaging forward posts with artillery and heavy machine guns.
Kamal Nayan Choubey, the additional director general of the BSF’s western command, said the cross-border attack was well-planned and carried out by the BAT.
“If there is a need to revisit the SOPs (standard operating procedure), the army will do it in tandem with the BSF,” he said, responding to reports that the patrol walked into a trap.
The army dismissed television news reports that India destroyed Pakistani bunkers and killed “several enemy” soldiers across the border in Jammu and Kashmir in a retaliatory attack.
A senior army officer said the reports were not true. “A lot of planning goes into any army action. We will respond but at apt time and place.”
The incident happened a day after Pakistani Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited areas along the LoC opposite the Krishna Ghati sector.
Pakistani DGMO Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza denied the killing and mutilation, and blamed India for what he called allegations that were made in “an attempt to divert the attention of the world from the situation” in Kashmir.
Pakistan’s denials had little impact at two villages in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh — that of fallen soldiers Singh and Sagar.
As bugles sounded the “Last Post” and Singh’s headless body was brought for cremation with full military honour, wife Paramjit Kaur said: “If the government cannot teach Pakistan a lesson, they should allow me to take revenge for my husband’s killing.”
BSF trooper Sagar’s was flown in a military helicopter to his village in UP’s Deoria, but the cremation was held back as his family demanded the presence of Prime Minister Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Sagar’s younger brother, who is also with the BSF, said the news of his death has shattered the family.
(With agency inputs)