The Indian government hardened its stance and asked the Border Security Force (BSF) to “retaliate with full force” after five civilians were killed and 29 wounded in firing by Pakistani forces along the border in Jammu on Monday, official sources said.
Tensions flared after four Pakistani civilians, including two children and a woman, were killed in retaliatory firing by India as home minister Rajnath Singh and defence minister Arun Jaitley warned Pakistan to stop such attacks if it wanted peace talks with India.
“Ceasefire violation must stop. Pakistan must realise that a decisive government has come to power, which will not take such instances lying down,” Singh told HT in an interview.
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India and Pakistan exchanged fire in Arnia and RS Pura sectors late on Monday, the heaviest firing between the two countries since India called off bilateral talks last month. Jaitley said the repeated ceasefire violations would not help normalise relations between the two countries and Indian armed forces were responding to all provocations from across the border.
"This is resulting in a series of ceasefire violations as a result of which innocent civilians have lost their lives. Pakistan must realise that the kind of environment it is generating between the two countries is certainly not going to help in normalising relations. The onus of creating a positive environment is on Pakistan which is utterly failing to do so," Jaitley said.
"There is no hesitation to our response now. If Pakistan fires five mortars, we can retaliate with 10," he said.
The violence puts more strain on already-tense ties between India and Pakistan after New Delhi called off planned foreign secretary-level talks following the Pakistani ambassador’s meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders last month.
Worst affected by the Pakistani firing in India was Mashain-de-kothe village, where four members of a family were killed. Mortars also landed at Arnia town, about three km from the International Border (IB), forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.
"When firing started we thought it would be another routine thing. But when heavy mortars started pounding our homes and heard cries, it was our worst nightmare," said Soma Devi, a relative of the family that lost four members to the firing.
BSF sources said India will not have a flag meeting after the firing which began late last Thursday in a bid to disrupt Dussehra celebrations. Media reports said three militants were killed as the army foiled an infiltration bid along the Line of Control in Tangdhar sector.
The Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs issued a statement condemning what it described as India’s "unprovoked firing".
"The government of Pakistan has lodged a strong protest with the government of India through diplomatic channels and called for restraining its forces from constant violation of the ceasefire," it said in the statement.
With tension prevailing on the border, the traditional exchange of sweets between Indian and Pakistani troops at the Attari border in Punjab on Eid was called off. However, sweets were exchanged at Chakan-da-bagh area in Poonch.
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(With Harinder Baweja and Rajesh Ahuja in New Delhi and Imtiaz Ahmad in Islamabad)