The Narendra Modi government on Tuesday directed the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indian Army not to seek a flag meeting with Pakistan on the international border that has witnessed heavy firing in the last two days.
“We will give Pakistan a befitting reply. We did not provoke the firing. We are only retaliating,’’ said BSF director general DK Pathak.
Senior army and BSF officials confirmed to HT that they have neither sought flag meetings –the usual practice – nor are they planning to. “We have not sought a flag meeting. They’re firing on us. Let them stop the firing first,” said BSF inspector general Rajesh Sharma.
Senior army officials told HT that India would wait for Pakistan to seek a meeting. “Let them contact us if they want to de-escalate tensions. We will calibrate our response accordingly.”
The decision not to seek a flag meeting is in keeping with the government’s hardening posture towards its neighbour.
India had in August called off foreign secretary-level talks after Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit held meetings with separatist Kashmir leaders. The message then was: India would brook no interference in its internal affair.
Another indication of India’s toughening stance came when the regular Tuesday talks between the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMO) between the two countries was scaled down.
Instead of the DGMO, his junior, the director in-charge of military operations, called his counterpart and registered a strong protest over what the army described as “unprovoked firing” that “targeted civilians”. The Pakistani counterpart too complained of the same.
Asked why the DGMOs didn’t speak with each other, a senior army officer said, “We were sending a deliberate message.”
Meanwhile, the two sides continued to exchange fire as the border flare up showed little signs of abating. Pathak said he expected the shelling to continue for a few more days. “It will take a couple of days before it subsides. The shelling has now gone into a reaction/counter-reaction mode and frankly if you ask me, Pakistan is not bothered about civilian casualties.”