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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 15 Jan 2013
Beheading unpardonable, we’ll retaliate: Army Chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 14
In a stern warning to Pakistan, Army Chief General Bikram Singh today upped the ante saying India would retaliate militarily to the gruesome beheading of its soldier. It was an unpardonable act and its long-term strategic impact had been conveyed to India’s western neighbour, he said.

Addressing the annual Army Day press conference, he said: “I have given clear directions. Retaliate to firing (from across the Line of Control). Uphold ceasefire as long as adversary upholds it. When fired at, we will respond immediately.”

Virtually laying down the rules of engagement for his officers, the Army Chief said: “I expect all my commanders along the LoC to be aggressive and offensive in the face of provocation and fire.”

On the January 8 beheading of an Indian soldier, he said it was a “gruesome, most unpardonable act which defies logic and is against the ethics of a professional soldier”. He said, “We will respond in the same manner. We reserve the right to retaliate at the time and place of our choosing.” He went on to add in Hindi: “Hum unko jawab dengey, pucca hai (we will respond, for sure).”

He also contradicted claims of the Pakistan Army that the Indian Army had carried out an operation on January 6 and that the Pakistan Army had only responded on January 8. “There was no operation undertaken by us on January 6. The Pak army was allegedly looking at justifying and legitimising their action (of January 8). Their campaign is based on lies,” he said.

In response to a question if the Pakistan Army had beheaded Indian soldiers of the 20 Kumaon regiment in July 2011, the Army Chief said: “That did happen.”

On the January 8 incident, he said: “Prima facie there were tactical errors. We will go into that and correct. However, there is no probe at this stage.” On being asked if there was any possibility of the Lashkar-e-Toiba having played a role in the incident, he said, “The possibility cannot be ruled out. The Pak army has this tool. However, our reports say it was carried out by the Special Services Group. They are Pak army regulars.”

LoC tension: PM speaks to Jaitley, Sushma

New Delhi: Amid tension with Pakistan on the LoC, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday spoke to BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj and assured them that the Opposition would be kept in loop over the situation. He told them that NSA Shivshankar Menon would brief them on Tuesday on the developments on the LoC where tension prevails. The PM said the Opposition would be kept in loop over the situation and appealed to them that the issue should not be politicised. — PTI

It (beheading of Indian soldier) was a gruesome, most unpardonable act. We will respond in the same manner. We reserve the right to retaliate at the time and place of our choosing. Hum unko jawab dengey, pucca hai. — Gen Bikram Singh, Army Chief
Fate of ceasefire hangs in balance
Time and again, Pakistan has violated the ceasefire in place along the Line of Control since 2003. The butchering of two Indian soldiers is an eye opener. With nearly 100 ceasefire violations in 2012 alone, can Pakistan ever mend its ways?
Arun Joshi

IT was Id-ul-Fitr on November 26, 2003, when the armies of India and Pakistan celebrated the end of their hostilities on the Line of Control (LoC). The ceasefire was like an “iddi” (gift) by the two governments. The ceasefire also applied to the Siachen glacier, the highest battlefield in the world.
It’s January 2013 and the ceasefire is under threat. The standard statement of the Army Commanders on this side of the border used to be: “Ceasefire is holding on and there is peace on the LoC and borders.” But there was an underlined caution, too, “Infiltrators would be neutralised along the borders.”

Since India has been a victim of terrorism and has seen much violence in Jammu and Kashmir, it took advantage of the ceasefire and completed its fence along the LoC in 2005 and strengthened its counter-infiltration grid along the borderline, which many term as a “de facto border”. On the other hand, Pakistan started raising the level of its embankments and built new bunkers behind these raised walls to avoid detection. It was surely preparing for some mischief. The Indian Army and the BSF would often voice concerns but there argument was lost because the ceasefire agreement did not permit any action.

Playing dirty

The ceasefire violation by Pakistan began in January 2005 itself when it fired mortar shells, days ahead of the completion of the barbed wire fence along the LoC. It was done twice in less than a week’s time, but India underplayed the issue and reluctantly accepted the Pakistani version that it might have been non-state actors. But militants had not used mortar shells of high calibre in their attacks on the Indian Army.

“We didn’t want to escalate the tension on the LoC and give Pakistan a chance to say we were engaging in hostilities on the border,” the then Army Chief NC Vij had told the media. Thereafter, there were ceasefire violations by Pakistan at regular intervals on both sides of the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas. It was in 2008 that the Indian Army started retaliating as its soldiers were getting killed.

It maintained that the violations were linked to infiltration from across the LoC and the Pakistan army was providing fire cover to terrorists to cross over to the Indian side. During the ceasefire, the first Indian soldier was killed in May 2007, after which there were many more such casualties. Despite all of this, the response of the Indian Army was: “Ceasefire violations take place on the LoC and other sectors also. Our response is immediate and efforts are made not to escalate the situation.”

Contentious issues are conveyed through a hotline or flag meeting between local commanders. Whenever these issues are not resolved, they are forwarded to the headquarters to be conveyed at the Director-General of Military Operations level. The ceasefire is holding by and large, the Army told The Tribune a few months ago.

But it changed with the brutal killing of Indian soldiers Lance Naik Hem Raj and Lance Naik Sudhkar Singh. The Minstry of External Affairs (MEA) summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir and Defence Minister AK Antony called it “provocative”.

While Pakistan regular army troopers were offering assistance to terrorists to cross the LoC, equipping them with sophisticated weapons, electronic gadgets, satellite phones, etc., India was playing down the infiltration and visible hostility. There were nearly 100 ceasefire violations in 2012 alone.

Hand of friendship

The ceasefire was put into effect after the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, while speaking at a rally in Srinagar in April 2003, extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan. This friendship offer came at a time when the Indian Army had withdrawn from the borders under Operation Parakram. This operation came to be known as “coercive diplomacy”, forcing Pakistan to discourage non-state actors from acting against India.

The situation changed after the Parliament attack on December 13, 2001, providing the trigger to mobilise forces along the border. The two sides regularly exchanged fire following the incident.

Vajpayee justified the friendship offer, saying “we can change our friends, we cannot change our neighbours”. The political and diplomatic logic was: The US had launched a war in Iraq and if India and Pakistan failed to forge better relations, there was danger of such things happening here too.

The US had warned of a nuclear clash between India and Pakistan after the attack on Parliament, and the US foreign office made its Deputy Secretary of State shuttle between New Delhi and Islamabad to help defuse tensions. His efforts were blunted by Pakistan when it sponsored a major suicide attack on the Army camp at Kaluchak, near Jammu, in which 38 soldiers, their wives and children were massacred. War seemed imminent, but international diplomacy prevailed and the armies withdrew to their peace-time positions.

That laid the foundation of back channels getting active. It was realised there was need to end hostilities with Pakistan and the best way to do it was to end the standoff on the borders. On November 26, 2003, Pakistanis offered sweets to Indian troops. It became a regular feature between the two armies on the LoC and the international border. While Indians would offer sweets on Diwali, Pakistanis would do it on Id-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Zuha.

More than the armies, border residents of both sides rejoiced at the ceasefire. Most of them had shifted to safer places as firing had made their lives a living hell. They could not afford to stay indoors nor could they tend to their fields, which were mined, or send children to school.

Ujjagar Singh of Abdulian, a village close to the international border, trembles at the thought of pre-ceasefire days. “There were only bullets and mortars,” he recalls. There was hardly any house that was not perforated by bullets in border villages. After the ceasefire, border residents returned to their homes and started a new life. Weddings resumed as earlier, no one would give their daughters as bride to young men from these villages.


Then came the time when the ceasefire prompted the Governments of India and Pakistan to open the LoC route for travellers and trade. On April 7, 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while flagging off Carvan-e-Aman bus, had described the initiative as an “unstoppable march toward peace” between India and Pakistan.

In July the same year, the Prime Minister voiced his wish that he wanted Siachen, where not even a single ceasefire violation has taken place since the ceasefire came into effect in November 2003, to become the “mountain of peace”, though he categorically stated that the boundaries cannot be redrawn. His idea was to reduce the LoC as a “line on the map”.

The best example of the ceasefire’s benefits was on display on October 23, 2011, when an Indian helicopter of Siachen Falcon 666 strayed across the LoC and landed in the Skardu area of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK). All four crew members — Lt Col Verma, Major Kapila, Major Raja and JCO Akhilesh — were taken into custody, but later released. Pakistan had even refuelled the chopper’s tank and they were allowed to return to Kargil.

The ceasefire also had a positive effect on the bilateral relations between the two countries. In a declaration in January 2004, Islamabad committed itself to not allowing any terrorist activity from its soil or the areas under its control against India. That promise has not been honoured to date even as Manmohan Singh has been reminding Pakistan, time and again, of its commitment to peace.

The horrid incident of January 7, 2013, was not simply a violation of the ceasefire alone. It was something more than that. Pakistani troops came from POK, reached the LoC and targeted a patrol party of Indian soldiers before entering the Indian territory. They killed two Indian soldiers and then severed the head of one of them. They slit the throat of the other soldier. Lance Naik Hem Raj was from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh and Naik Sudhkar Singh belonged to Madhya Pradesh.

The dastardly incident exposed the brutality of the Pakistan army. At the same time, it was a blatant violation of the sanctity of the Line of Control. The armies are not supposed to cross the borders, and when they do, they spark trouble. Who would have stopped the Indian Army from undertaking the hot chase of militants entering the Indian side from across the LoC, where 42 terror camps are still alive? These camps are training more than 2,500 militants, who are waiting to cross over to the Indian side.

The US has advised India and Pakistan to maintain peace. It is true matters should be resolved amicably across the table, but the January 7 incident has opened the door wide enough for the Indian Army to respond to “open aggression” by Pakistan. At this stage, who can guarantee peace on borders and longevity of the ceasefire?
At Poonch flag meeting, Pak still in denial mode
Tribune News Service

Jammu/Poonch/Islamabad, Jan 14
The Indian Army today lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over the “barbaric” killing of two of its soldiers and recurring violations of the ceasefire agreement by the latter’s troops during the Brigade Commander-level flag meeting at Chakan-da-Bagh crossing point on the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch.

In a brazen denial, the Pakistan Army said it was not involved in the killing of the Indian soldiers and mutilation of their bodies on January 8 and did not have Lance Naik Hemraj’s head. It refused to accept that its troops crossed the LoC to target Indian posts. It claimed a Pakistani citizen was injured in firing from the Indian side in Battal sector on Monday.

Army sources said the flag meeting began around 1pm and lasted about 35 minutes.

“We lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over its soldiers resorting to open aggression in the KG Sector and killing two Indian soldiers besides mutilating their bodies on January 8,” sources said.

The Indian side also vehemently raised the issue of recurring ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC. Pakistan has violated the ceasefire at the LoC 10 times already this year. Last year, 117 violations were reported, which was a 100 per cent increase from 61 in 2011.

“While voicing serious concern over brutal killing and mutilation of the bodies of two soldiers, the Indian Army demanded the severed head of the beheaded soldier, which was taken away by intruding Pakistan Army troops,” sources said.

Lt Col Rajesh Kalia, PRO (Defence) Headquarters Northern Command, said the Army raised a strong protest against the “heinous mutilation” of the deceased soldiers’ bodies, pointing out that it was against the tenets of the Geneva Convention as also in contravention of all established norms of soldierly behaviour.

“Our representative expressed our grave concern over the barbaric act by Pakistani troops in the recent ambush of our patrol in the Mendhar Sector. It was conveyed to the Pakistan delegation that such a dastardly and cowardly act is totally unacceptable and is a pre-meditated attempt to undermine the ceasefire agreement of 2003 and can lead to further escalation,” the PRO said.

He further said: “It was conveyed in no uncertain terms that repetition of such acts would not be tolerated and the Indian Army reserves the right to retaliate at the place and time of our own choosing in case they recur.”

He, however, said the Pakistan Army’s response was on “expected lines” as the Pakistani delegation leader denied their involvement in the incident, besides denying any ceasefire violations by their troops.

“The Pakistani delegation also reiterated false and fabricated allegations that our troops crossed over the Line of Control and killed one Pakistani soldier and injured another. Their response was on expected lines wherein they stated that no ceasefire violation has been initiated by their troops,” the PRO said.

He said the situation along the Line of Control was being closely monitored and Indian soldiers were maintaining necessary vigil.

“Apart from the discussion on various issues related to cross-border terrorism and ceasefire violations, the Indian Army also favoured the resumption of trade and travel from Poonch sector to restore normalcy on the border. The Pakistan Army, however, made no commitment on the resumption of cross-LoC trade and travel, which it had suspended following massive outrage over the killing of two Indian soldiers,” he said. Pakistan unilaterally suspended cross-LoC trade and travel at Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point in Poonch sector since Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Brazen Stand

The Pakistan Army reiterated that it was not involved in the killing of the Indian soldiers and mutilation of their bodies on January 8 in the KG Sector

It also denied that it had the head of Lance Naik Hemraj and refused to accept that its troops had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) to target Indian posts

Pakistan has violated the ceasefire at the LoC 10 times already this year
‘Oversight’ deprives 2 disabled soldiers of pension benefits
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, January 14
An “oversight” on the part of the government has resulted in a young disabled Army officer running from pillar to post for the past 10 years to get his pension and other due benefits released.

Exposing the hollowness of the claims of military authorities with regard to treatment accorded to ex-servicemen and disabled veterans, a commissioned officer and a soldier today approached the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), stating that their pensions and benefits had not been released even 10 and six years, respectively, after leaving the service.

Lieutenant Amit Vasudev from Gurdaspur was invalided out in 2002 as a young officer with a disability that was declared to have been aggravated due to military service for life. Running from pillar to post for the past 10 years, he was not given any reason for Army’s failure to sanction his disability pension.

When questioned under the RTI Act, the Army Headquarters recently replied that his disability pension had not been released to date due to an “oversight” on the part of the authorities.

Naik Govinder Singh, a brain-damaged soldier from Hoshiarpur with disability assessed at 100 per cent, was invalided out of the Army in 2007 after having rendered 14 years of service with the entitlement of pension but the benefits have still not been released to him by the Army.

The medical board’s declaration attributing his disability to military service was overturned by the Army Headquarters, for which his appeal remains pending.

In his petition, he has contended that even by treating his disability as non-attributable he remained entitled to invalid pension that is granted to soldiers with non-service related disabilities having more than 10 years of service.

The soldier is from the Sikh Light Infantry, which happens to be the Army Chief’s regiment.

Both disabled veterans, who remain without pension, have pointed out that in the absence of release of pension, which was their rightful claim, they were not even entitled to medical facilities under the Ex-serviceman Contributory Health Scheme.

The AFT has issued a notice to the government, asking it to respond to the petitions.
Martyred soldier’s family ends fast

Khairair (UP), January 14
The family of beheaded soldier Hemraj today called off their six-day-old fast after a visit by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and top BJP leaders and assurances by Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh that steps will be taken to get back the severed head.

The end of the protest came in the evening when Akhilesh met the family and offered juice to Hemraj's fasting wife Dharamwati, mother Meena Devi and cousin Narendra, offering all help to the family as well as for the development of the village.

Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh visited the family of the martyred soldier and announced that the government would give Rs 46 lakh to the family. "We are also talking to other ministries so that the family get a petrol pump," he said.

Akhilesh promised to take steps to meet the family's demands, including development of the road for the village and take up with the Centre the allotment of a petrol pump for them.

"The family have shown the strength to face this (tragedy). We have to stand by them. We should all support the family of Lance Naik Hemraj. We have assured that whatever demands they have made for village." The day began with the family refusing to take "even liquid", demanding that the Army Chief meet them personally and give an assurance that Hemraj's head severed by Pakistani troops last week be brought back or else they will continue the fast.

However, the family decided to end the fast after a string of leaders, including Akhilesh, Jitendra Singh and top BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh visited them and offered support. — PTI
Continue the peace process
Reach out to secular sections of Pakistan
by B.G. Verghese

IF there is something India needs to remember at this time, it is the 150th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, that great soul who tried to reinterpret India to itself and rid it of caste and other social blemishes. That is the Idea of India we must never forget but, rather, build on.

One is powerfully reminded of this when one sees sundry current “godmen” and other religious frauds backed by gullible and even fanatic followers spouting nonsense and dividing the country. India is a deeply religious and spiritual society. But some of this religiosity is rooted in medieval-rootedness that is not merely irrelevant but antithetical to our times.

Asaram Bapu is one such cult figure who cannot be left to defy the law and the Constitution and be allowed to get away with hate speech. These men often get away with such conduct because politicians and other powerful or wealthy persons have been allowed to set deviant standards with immunity and impunity. The rot begins with political parties whose politics is for person and pelf above all else and whose members’ electoral criminality is now well established.

Akbaruddin Owaisi was initially arrested and placed in judicial custody in Hyderabad for his utterly outrageous communal and anti-India rant after days of evasive action and pleading life-threatening illness. Such lies, when exposed, as in this case through an independent medical examination, should fetch condign punishment in itself for the person concerned and his family and political protectors.

People in high places also defy the law and norms of conduct by pulling rank. Witness the utterly disgraceful conduct of V.K. Singh, former Army chief, last week when a uniformed Signal’s Major sent to the General’s residence to remove the telephone exchange allowed him as a courtesy for six months — not the telephone connection itself — found himself virtually taken prisoner for eight hours. Both the front door of the residence and the compound gate were locked to prevent his “escape”. The General’s personal security staff and family said they had received no prior intimation of such a visit owing to what an Army spokesperson later described as a mis-communication for which an apology was issued. A simple telephone call to the right quarters by Singh’s family could have resolved the issue one way or the other.

Instead, the media was alerted, admitted into the compound and allowed to chase and harass the Major who was charged by the General’s lawyer with snooping around and seeking to plant a bug in the house as a plot for “something big”. It is not known whether the General was at home or not but there was no word from him then or since. Singh’s rogue conduct both in uniform and out of it falls far short of the norms expected of “an officer and a gentleman”.

How can a former Army Chief, who earlier shamefully sued his own government for self-falsification of his age, now formally charge the Army with “snooping” on him and be allowed to get away with it? As before, the Defence Minister has dealt with the matter with supreme incompetence and thereby undermined military discipline and morale.

No nexus is implied, but it is at this juncture that Pakistan for some strange reason has decided to up the ante alongside the LOC and J&K while swearing commitment to the peace process with India for its own salvation. Rather than target India as its permanent enemy, the Pakistan Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, has called on the country to redefine its military doctrine in order comprehensively “to tackle terrorism”. He told the National Defence Institute in Islamabad on January 5 that danger to Pakistan’s national security “stems mainly from non-state actors who are targeting the State’s symbols and institutions in a bid to impose their agenda”. Political will and people’s support were critical for the success of military action.

Despite reiteration of this new dogma at various levels, General Kayani being first of the mark last April, both political will and public support remain fragmented. The LOC violations in the Uri-Mendhar sectors last week, howsoever triggered — and each side accuses the other of initiating unprovoked action – two matters stand out as undisputed. The first is that the bodies of two Indian soldiers were found mutilated, with the head decapitated in one case. This is barbaric. The second is that Pakistan has prolonged and escalated the crisis by unilaterally stopping cross-border truck movements in the Poonch sector, while previously missing yet another, December-end deadline for granting India long-overdue MFN status on specious grounds.

India’s restraint and offer to hold Brigadier-level flag meetings to sort out matters has been scorned. Instead, Islamabad has suggested investigation of these cross-border incidents by the UN Military Observer Group (UNMOG. This sounds very fair except for the fact that the proposal mischievously attempts to revive a dead horse. UNMOG was rendered comatose in 1972 when both sides agreed at Simla to bury the UN Resolutions and settle the Kashmir Question bilaterally. Islamabad is now cleverly trying to resile from the governing Simla agreement and internationalise the matter. As importantly, Pakistan is in flagrant and repeated violation of the UN rulings and resolutions on J&K. Such devious cunning will not work. Kashmir cannot once again become an international football with allies and Islamists playing their own games for their own ends.

It would seem that political will and public support in Pakistan for peace with India is divided. A radicalised section of the Army, the Islamists and jihadis continue to favour a hard line as the recent escalation of cross-border infiltration indicates. Non-state actors are still able to blackmail the state. Even the Army finds it useful to engage with these nefarious elements, some of whom have been raised, trained and funded by it and offer it plausible deniability. Hafeez Saeeds and Salahuddins are still at large and continue to spew venom and hate against India while others talk peace. The 26/11 trial drags on. The separatist Hurriyat is still a prime interlocutor in Pakistan while recently-elected panchayat leaders in J&K keep being targeted by those who fear self-determination.

Yet, the peace process with Pakistan must not be broken. The truly democratic, secular, peace-minded sections of Pakistan, though still small and fearful, must be supported. They exist. The familiar chorus of “denials” from Pakistan must be rigorously exposed so that falsehood does not masquerade as truth. But for this India needs a communications policy. Where is that?|head
India, China Try To Revive Military Exercises

NEW DELHI — India and China discussed reviving military exercises Jan. 14, stalled since 2010, and increasing military exchanges during the Third India-China Annual Defence Dialogue in Beijing, said an Indian Defence Ministry official.

India and China held their first military exercise in 2007 in China followed by another in 2008 in India. The planned military exercise in 2010, however, was stalled after China denied a visa to an Indian Army commander.

Indian Defence Secretary Shahsikant Sharma led the Indian delegation at the Jan. 14 Third India-China Annual Defence Dialogue, while the Chinese deputy chief of the General Staff, Gen. Qi Jianguo, led the Chinese side.

“Both sides agreed to expand and enhance bilateral exchanges covering the Army, Navy and Air Force of both countries,” says an Indian Defence Ministry release.

The two sides also discussed regional and international issues of common interests, including potential hotspots in the Asia-Pacific region and in the India-China border areas, adds the release.

India and Vietnam are jointly working on exploiting energy resources in South China Sea, which is not to the liking of Beijing.

Early this year, the Indian Navy chief, Adm. D.K. Joshi, said that Beijing’s growing maritime strength was a “major, major cause for concern,” and pledged to support a state energy firm in its contentious search for oil in the South China Sea.

“It is actually a major, major cause of concern for us, which we continuously evaluate and work out our options and our strategies for,” Joshi had said.

India and China fought a brief battle in 1962 over border issues and have held a series of talks to resolve the issue. The dispute between the two countries involves the longest contested boundary in the world. China claims 92,000 square kilometers of Indian territory.

The border between India and China is currently defined by a 4,056-kilometer Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is neither marked on the ground nor on mutually acceptable maps. Efforts to have a recognized LAC since the mid 1980s have made little headway.

The Jan. 14 meeting also discussed the border issue.

“The two sides reviewed the ongoing measures to maintain peace and tranquility on the Line of Actual Control (LAC),” the release says.
India's army chief warns Pakistan of retaliation

NEW DELHI — India's army chief on Monday accused Pakistan of planning an attack in which two Indian soldiers were killed in the disputed Kashmir region last week, and warned of possible retaliation.

Gen. Bikram Singh's strong words are a clear message that India believes the Jan. 8 attack was a deliberate provocation and not an unintentional skirmish of the kind that often breaks out along the Line of Control, the de facto border between the two archrivals in the Himalayan territory.

Pakistan did not immediately respond to the comments, which are likely to raise tensions further.

The tit-for-tat fighting began Jan. 6 when Pakistan accused Indian troops of raiding an army post and killing a soldier. India denied attacking the post, and said its troops fired across the border in response to Pakistani shelling that destroyed a home on the Indian side.

On Jan. 8, India claimed Pakistani soldiers, taking advantage of heavy fog, crossed the border and killed two Indian soldiers and beheaded one of them.

Pakistan denies India's allegations and has suggested U.N. monitors in the region conduct an inquiry - a call that India rejected, saying it didn't want to internationalize the issue.

"The attack on Jan. 8 was premeditated, a pre-planned activity. Such an operation requires planning, detailed reconnaissance," Singh told reporters. He said India reserved the right to retaliate at a "time and place of its choice."

Singh urged his troops to be "aggressive and offensive in the face of provocation and fire" from Pakistan. He said the alleged beheading of the Indian soldier was "unacceptable and unpardonable" and accused Pakistan of violating the "ethics of warfare."

Tensions escalated further on Jan. 10 when Pakistan said Indian troops fired across the border and killed another one of its soldiers. The Pakistani army said the shooting was unprovoked, while the Indian military said its troops were responding to fire from across the frontier.

Both countries accused each other of violating a 2003 cease-fire and have summoned their envoys to lodge protests.

Singh spoke hours before Indian and Pakistani military commanders met to defuse tensions along the Line of Control.

The meeting between the local commanders of the two armies in the Poonch region of Indian-controlled Kashmir lasted about half an hour, said Col. R.K. Palta, an Indian army spokesman.

Brig. Bipin Bakshi, a senior Indian army officer, said India raised the issue of repeated cease-fire violations by Pakistani troops "and conveyed our strong protest regarding the barbaric act of the mutilation of our soldier."

Bakshi said Pakistani army officers refused to acknowledge that their troops initiated any violations of the cease-fire, staged any raids or killed any soldiers.

He said Pakistan accused the Indian army of violating the cease-fire and crossing the military line.

The cease-fire over Kashmir has largely held for about a decade, despite periodic firing across the de facto border that sometimes causes casualties.

The two countries have fought three major wars since Pakistan's birth after British colonial rule of India ended in August 1947. Two of the wars have been over Kashmir, which both countries claim in its entirety. The wars have left about one-third of Kashmir with Pakistan and the rest with India.
Indian Army will respond immediately if provoked: Gen Bikram Singh on LoC attack
Terming as "unpardonable" the beheading of a soldier by Pakistan on the Line of Control, army chief Gen Bikram Singh on Monday warned that India's military will retaliate aggressively in case of any further provocation.

Talking tough, he said the killing of two Indian soldiers on the LoC in Mendhar area of Jammu and Kashmir on January 6 was a pre-planned and pre-meditated action by Pakistani troops and India reserves the right to retaliate at "time and place of its choice".

Addressing a press conference here on the eve of Army Day, Gen Singh said India's response to Pakistani firing at its posts in LoC in Jammu and Kashmir is measured and perfect.

He said the ceasefire, in place since November 2003, has been holding except for "some aberrations" for which he squarely blamed Pakistan.

"Beheading (of Lance Naik Hemraj) is unacceptable and unpardonable," the Army Chief said about the incident in which Pakistan soldiers crossed into the Indian territory to attack Indian army patrol party.

"It (the attack) was stage-managed and pre-planned (by Pakistan). They (Pakistan) have planted lies to justify what they have done," he said.

He said the attack was carried out by Pakistan army personnel but did not rule out the possibility of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists being associated with it.

Gen Singh said while the issue is being taken up with Pakistan at government and military levels, directions have been given to army commanders to respond immediately if provoked.

"India reserves its right to retaliate at the time and place of its choice. We won't remain passive when attacked," he said, adding he expected "commanders to be aggressive and offensive."

Hitting out that the Pakistan army, Gen Singh said beheading is against all rules of engagement.

At the same time, he said there were some "tactical errors" on part of the local unit which will be looked into later as an inquiry at the moment will affect the morale of the forces.

"Our teams should be balanced to take on the onslaught of the enemy," the army chief said.

Putting the onus of maintaining the ceasefire on Pakistan, the army chief said India will uphold it as long as the "adversary" does.

He applauded the Indian Army Commanders at the LoC, saying they did a "great job".

Gen Singh discounted the possibility of the skirmish leading to a full-fledged war and was dismissive of Pakistan's nuclear blackmail, saying it had no relation to the local conflict.

"Indicators does not show upping the ante," he said.

On any response to the Pakistani action, he said it has to be the decision of the government.

Noting that the morale of the force along the LoC was "high", Singh said he would go there at an "opportune time".

The army chief said he shared the grief of slain soldier Hemraj Singh's widow. "I am sorry (for all her pains and sorrows). She is a part of the army family... she will be provided with all the entitlements," he said.

Regretting the beheading incident, he said the Indian Army would have never indulged in such type of acts.

"We give respect to enemys' bodies. This is our value and you have seen this during Kargil war," he said.

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