Border tension: India, Pak to scale up level of engagement

India and Pakistan will scale up the level of engagement to defuse the recent escalation in tension due to cross-border firing and shelling in the Jammu sector as a flag meeting of commandant-level officers of the two sides ended in a deadlock on Wednesday.

The meeting, first since the international border witnessed a relentless and massive exchange of firing for two weeks, was held at the Pargwal outpost in the Akhnoor sector, 40 km from here, which has been unaffected by the cross-border hostilities. The 40-minute meeting was held between commandant SK Singh of the 33 Battalion of the Border Security Force (BSF) and his Pakistani counterpart Mohammad Waqar of the 18 Desert Rangers, but it failed to produce any results as both sides blamed each other for unprovoked firing and targeting the civilians along the international boundary.

Though there has been no fresh firing in the RS Pura and Samba sectors in the past two days, uneasy truce prevails on both sides.

In the wake of Wednesday’s impasse, Pakistan has requested India to scale up the level of contact between the ground officers to the deputy inspector general (DIG)-brigadier level. India is expected to respond to the request on Thursday.

“The Pakistan commander told his Indian counterpart that since they are not involved in the recent tension, the meeting be held at the Rangers’ brigadier level   equivalent to the BSF DIG   as they are the in-charge of the sectors where firing has taken place,” said a senior BSF official, wishing not to be named.

The BSF, deployed along the international border-and in some areas along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, is divided into three sectors, with each sector headed by a DIG-level officer. Jammu district, the flashpoint of the recent tension, is one of the sectors headed by a DIG.

“It was a meeting aimed at setting the agenda for a detailed flag meeting. We raised our points. However, the date of the next meeting hasn’t been finalised yet,” said inspector general, BSF (Jammu frontier), Rajesh Sharma.

It’s the first time that Pakistan sent a request for a flag meeting since July 16, when a BSF jawan had died in sniper fire from across the border, after which firing continued, though punctuated with brief spells of calm.

India had since then sent 16 requests for a sectoral-level commander meeting, but Pakistan didn’t respond, after which India also toughened its stand and didn’t send any request for flag meeting.

The BSF director general, DK Pathak, had said on Tuesday that this was the longest and severest firing along the border after the 1971 war.

India’s director general of military operations (DGMO) had on Tuesday spoken to his Pakistani counterpart on the phone and raised the issue of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border.

About 10,000 people have migrated to safer places, while two civilians and one BSF jawan have died in the latest series of ceasefire violations in the Jammu region.

'Ceasefire-related issues not discussed’

Border Security Force (BSF) inspector general (IG) RK Sharma told reporters that at Wednesday’s meeting, it was decided that talks should continue.

“No issues relating to the ceasefire were discussed at the meeting,” he said, adding that the level of the next flag meeting and the venue were taken up.

“Both sides will take up the proposal and finalise the issues in two to three days,” the IG said.

“Our stand is clear. We want peace to prevail along the border. Whenever Pakistan has requested us, we have responded positively,” he added. PTI


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