New Delhi: As tension at the India-Pakistan border escalated, India has requested for a Brigadier-level flag meet with Pakistan, say sources in the Indian Army. Pakistan's reply to the request is awaited, say sources.
The cross-border tensions have also affected trade and bus service between the two countries. The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday said, "Yes, cross LoC trade and bus service has been suspended. We understand gates couldn't be opened because of local circumstances. There will be a discussion with authorities on this."
The tension and aggression along the LoC has also spilled into a diplomatic row as Pakistan summoned Indian High Commissioner Sharad Sabharwal to the Pakistan Foreign Office on Friday. Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani served Sabharwal a demarche over the killing of a Pakistani soldier in Battal sector along with LoC on Thursday allegedly by the Indian Army. Sabharwal emphasised the need for the ceasefire to be maintained.
Earlier on Friday, there were reports of overnight firing from the Pakistan side in the Poonch sector at more than three places along the LoC. India has maintained that the firing is unprovoked. There have been three violations of the nine-year-old ceasefire along the LoC in the past five days.
Two Indian Army soldiers were killed and their bodies brutalised in a cross-border raid by Pakistani troops on Tuesday while a Pakistani soldier had died on Sunday. The clashes were among the most serious violations of the truce that was put in place in late 2003.
Pakistan's Foreign Office had earlier called in Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Baglay on January 7 to protest the incident that occurred a day earlier.
The External Affairs Ministry had summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir earlier this week to protest the killing of the two Indian soldiers.
Hours before Thursday's incident in Battal sector of the LoC, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had sought to play down the impact of the recent clashes. She said Pakistan did not see the recent violations of the LoC ceasefire derailing or setting back the peace process with India.
Khar said the government and people of Pakistan were committed to normalising relations with India and referred to recent breakthroughs in bilateral ties, including steps to normalise trade relations and a new visa agreement. She also called for a UN-led probe if India did not believe Pakistan's claims.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram, however, said, "We do not believe in internationalising the issue or a UN inquiry. It has been outrightly rejected. The Pakistan commissioner was summoned and we registered our protest." Chidambaram said that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had taken a very serious view of the situation.
Chidambaram on Thursday refuted Pakistan's claims that India had violated ceasefire norms and that Poonch firing was not an unprovoked incident. "The Indian forces are strictly in accordance with ceasefire norms," he told reporters.
(With additional information from PTI)
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