Parliament held up over Defence Minister's version of LoC attack; PM meets BJP leaders; Government to make statement in the House

Hours after Parliament proceedings were disrupted over the statement made by Defence Minister A.K. Antony on the killing of five Indian soldiers along the LoC, senior BJP leaders lodged a ‘strong protest’ with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the manner in which the entire issue has been handled.

Sources in the BJP say the government has promised to issue a statement when the House meets on Thursday. The BJP has taken exception to the wording of Mr. Antony’s statement that those who killed the jawans were in Pakistani military uniform contrary to the statement made by the Army — but later withdrawn — to the effect that the killers were Pakistani soldiers.

The principal Opposition party has been pressing the Defence Minister to explain the discrepancy in the two statements, besides asking the government not to hold talks with Pakistan at any level.

The chant of no-to-talks has gained currency in the context of reports in a section of the media suggesting that the Prime Minister would meet the new Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, for the first time since he assumed office, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, towards September-end.

At their meeting with Dr. Singh, the BJP leaders, led by L.K. Advani, contended that the Minister’s statement was a “goof-up” that must be explained. Besides Mr. Advani, BJP president Rajnath Singh and Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, were also present. From the government, Mr. Antony attended the meeting.

The Prime Minister called the BJP leaders in a bid to persuade the party to vote in support of the Constitution Amendment Bill to give effect to the Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement.

The meeting came after Mr. Antony on Wednesday briefed the Prime Minister of the situation on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

The BJP leaders are understood to have asked the Prime Minister why the Defence Minister was “soft” on Pakistan. The Congress has rejected the contention that the Defence Minister had committed a goof-up. “There is no goof-up, no mistake, no contradiction. Whatever information was available with the Defence Minister, he said according to that,” party spokesperson P.C. Chacko said.

Mr. Antony said that he would come back to Parliament after ascertaining details from Army Chief Gen. Bikram Singh who visited Jammu on Wednesday.

Veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani said there was no justification in having talks with Pakistan if Islamabad was involved in the incident. He said there was a need for the Defence Minister to tell the truth.

Meanwhile, a special hotline was established between the DGMOs of the Pakistani and Indian Armies to discuss the situation. The Pakistan DGMO categorically rejected Indian allegations. The Pakistan Army also lodged a strong protest about an alleged LoC violation by Indian troops in Pandu sector on Wednesday in which two Pakistani soldiers were seriously wounded.

Correction

In the front-page report, "BJP blasts Antony 'goof-up'" (August 8, 2013), there was a reference to the Bangladesh Land Border Agreement. It should have been Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement.

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