India responds to Pak provocations

Soldiers in action during an encounter in Kupwara of Jammu and Kashmir . One alleged militant was killed in the encounter.
Soldiers in action during an encounter in Kupwara of Jammu and Kashmir . One alleged militant was killed in the encounter.

Five civilians, including a young girl, were killed and 29 others injured Monday in unprovoked firing by Pakistan across the international border in Jammu district, in one of the worst instances of ceasefire violations.

The Indian government said its forces were responding to the “provocations” and the firing was not conducive to normalising relations between the two countries.

The five civilians, including a 15-year-old girl and her 50-year-old father, were killed in indiscriminate mortar shelling and automatic weapons firing by Pakistan Rangers across the international border in Arnia sub-sector of R.S. Pura area of Jammu district, a police officer said in Jammu.

Pakistani mortar shells had fallen inside the Arnia bus stand, which is more than 4 km away from the international border.

Later, the Pakistan Army also resorted to unprovoked firing at Indian positions along the Line of Control in Poonch district, a defence ministry official said, while there was further firing by the Pakistan Rangers in Arnia and Kanachak areas of Jammu district Monday night, which was responded to by the Border Security Force.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said in New Delhi that defence forces and paramilitary forces were “fully ready and are responding to each of their (Pakistan’s) provocations”.

He said the environment being created by Pakistan will not help in normalising relationship between the two countries.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi said that Pakistan “should understand the reality that times have changed in India”. He said that he had asked BSF Director General D.K. Pathak to rush to the border areas where incidents of ceasefire violations had been reported.

Pakistan has, in turn, lodged “a strong protest” with the Indian government over “unprovoked firing” by India and alleged that violation of the ceasefire by Indian security forces had led to the deaths of four civilians.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said Pakistan’s indiscriminate cross-border firing only shows the neighbouring country’s frustration over its failure to rake up the Kashmir issue.

The chief minister rushed to Jammu from Srinagar despite the Eid-ul-Adha festival to attend the cremation of the five civilians killed in mortar shelling by Pakistan, while senior civil and police officials rushed to Arnia to take stock of the situation.

The injured were admitted to the Government Medical College and Hospital in Jammu.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad meanwhile accused the central government of “failing” to respond adequately to ceasefire violations by Pakistan, saying “deaths of jawans and civilians on the borders have become a regular feature ever since the NDA government came to power”.

In the Poonch district firing, the Pakistan Army opened “unprovoked firing” on Indian positions in Bhimber Ghali area of the Line of Control,” defence ministry spokesman Col. Manish Mehta told IANS.

“Pakistan Army is using mortars and automatics. Equal effective response of the unprovoked firing was given by our soldiers. No casualty is reported on our side,” he said.

Mehta said Pakistan also carried out unprovoked ceasefire violation in Kerni sector in Poonch and the firing continued for about 20 minutes from 5. 40 pm.

The exchange of gunfire had another fallout – the border guards of India and Pakistan Monday did not exchange greetings and sweets at the Attari-Wagah joint check post (JCP) on the occasion of Eid. This is the first time that the goodwill gesture has been dumped by both sides in recent years.

BSF sources said the Indian side refused to offer or accept sweets from the Pakistan Rangers due to recent repeated violations of ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

BSF Inspector General (Punjab Frontier) Ashok Kumar said that this decision was taken Sunday evening not to give sweets to the Pakistan Rangers, while BSF Deputy Inspector General M.F. Farooqui said for the first time the exchange of sweets had not happened.

Border guards from both sides normally exchange greetings and sweets on the occasion of prominent religious festivals and other occasions like Independence Day of both countries as a goodwill gesture.

In Islamabad, Pakistan alleged violation of the ceasefire by Indian security forces at Charwah sector and has lodged a strong protest with India.It said the firing started at midnight and continued till Monday morning.”Pakistan strongly condemns the Indian security forces’ unprovoked firing, violating the ceasefire at the working boundary at Charwah sector today,” the Pakistan Foreign Office said.

The Indian Army guards the LoC while paramilitary BSF guards the international border in Jammu and Kashmir.