Amid heightened tension along their border resulting in casualties on both sides, India today warned Pakistan of “effective and forceful” response to unprovoked firing and cross-border terrorism.
India’s blunt message followed a series of ceasefire violations along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan which resorted to mortar shelling of Indian areas over the past two days. India responded in kind and both sides said they had suffered casualties.
There has been a flurry of conversations involving India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and his Indian counterpart in Islamabad TCA Raghavan since yesterday morning in order to address the situation which has arisen only days after the Prime Ministers of the two countries had agreed in Russia to resume engagement between the two countries.
Jaishankar was addressing reporters after a high-level meeting called by Home Minister Rajnath Singh with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to review the situation on the border. The meet was also attended by Doval and the Foreign Secretary.
Asserting that India remained committed to steps that contribute to ensuring peace and tranquillity on the border, Jaishankar said, “However, there should be no doubt that any unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side would meet with an effective and forceful response from our forces. Nor we will let down our guard against infiltration and cross-border terrorism.”
Asked if India will go ahead with its engagement as was decided in Ufa, Russia, he said,”I think my statement made it very clear. If the intention or the inclination is to strengthen peace and tranquillity on the border and do the meetings that we have agreed to do, we remain committed to that.
“If on the other hand there is unprovoked firing and there is infiltration and cross-border terrorism then, obviously the situation is different. So that choice is not ours.”
Observing that nature of unprovoked firing by Pakistan was “serious”, the Foreign Secretary said, therefore, there were series of consultations between the officials of the two sides. “The National Security Advisor spoke to the Pakistan envoy twice yesterday and once today. I also spoke to Basit on the border situation,” he said.
Accusing Pakistan of “shifting the blame to India” for the ceasefire violations, he said there was no response from Pakistan to address the situation.
India’s response came amid a blame game between the two countries over shooting down of an alleged spy drone and ceasefire violation at the Line of Control (LoC) in which one Indian woman and nearly 10 others were injured in Akhnoor sector of Jammu.
Pakistan has claimed that four of their nationals have been killed in the ceasefire violations by India.
Rejecting Pakistan’s allegation that an Indian spy drone entered their air space in violation of International Law, Jaishankar said picture of drone in question shows it’s not of Indian design or available in Indian armed forces’ inventory.
“It appears to be a Chinese design which is available off the shelf, the Foreign Secretary said.
He also countered Pakistan government’s charge over Heli manoeuvres by India near LoC on July 11 2015 as an “offensive and threatening posture”.
“In so far as the allegation of the helicopter manoeuvres is concerned, this has already been taken up and settled through an exchange of hotline messages between local formation commanders at Teetwal on July 12-13.
“The helicopter flight was in connection with the counter-terrorism operation in which three terrorists were neutralised. The Pakistani side raised the issue of our helicopter flight and we had clarified that it was well within the mutually accepted distances from the LoC in India. That the Pakistani government four days later is raising a controversy on a settled issue speaks for itself,” he said.
Asked whether India will go ahead with NSA-level talks as was decided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa despite the current tension or it will be postponed, the Foreign Secretary did not give a direct answer.
“The (dates) for the talks have not been decided so far… Therefore, the question of postponing it does not arise,” he said, adding only thing which was agreed upon was that they will meet in Delhi.
About the meeting between the DGMOs of two countries, he said,”What will happen in next few days, I really do not want to predict.”
He also refused to give India’s assessment on as to why Pakistan was indulging in ceasefire violations, within days of a good meeting between Modi and Sharif.
On today’s high-level meeting, he said it was to review India’s response in past two days to handle the situation along the LoC with Pakistan.