Opposition cries foul saying the Defence Minister’s statement amounted to giving an “escape route” to Pakistan.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony maintained that the killing of five jawans of the Bihar regiment on the Line of Control in the Poonch sector on Tuesday was the handiwork of armed terrorists dressed in Pakistani Army uniform.

Making a suo motu statement in the Rajya Sabha, he rejected the Opposition charge that the government bailed out Pakistan by blaming it on terrorists and said his was a “proper response in the present juncture” as the incident had occurred early in the day and he did not want to jump to conclusions.

Referring to questions raised by Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, the Minister said his statement was based on confirmed reports that he received at the time of his response in the House. With most parties calling for a fitting reply to Pakistan, Mr. Antony said the fact that the House displayed unity while discussing the critical issue of national security was in itself the “strongest answer to our enemy.”

He said he would not go into the details of the incident but the government had lodged a strong protest with Pakistan through diplomatic channels against the manner in which the ambush was carried out by 20 heavily armed terrorists dressed in Pakistani Army uniform.

The statement acknowledged that infiltration attempts doubled this year and ceasefire violations went up by 80 per cent, with 57 incidents reported so far this year. While 17 infiltration bids were foiled this year, 19 hardcore terrorists were killed in July and August along the LoC and in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Opposition parties attacked Mr. Antony’s statement for failing to assert India’s position. They said the incident was the outcome of India’s ‘failed foreign policy.’

Mr. Jaitley said cross-border terrorism had increased, and Tuesday’s incident should not be seen in isolation but against the backdrop of the beheading of Indian soldiers, the murderous attack on the death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, the bomb blast in Afghanistan and the incursions along the Chinese border. By holding terrorists responsible, India was giving an ‘escape route’ to Pakistan, which had always denied promoting cross-border terrorism. “Pakistan is not entitled to any benefit of doubt.”

Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Verma called for a fitting action to end the increasing incidents of incursions.

Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) questioned how the Minister could make a categorical statement that terrorists were behind the killings. It was an attempt to “justify ourselves” that it was not an India-Pakistan issue.

D. Raja of the CPI said that protesting through diplomatic channels was irrelevant, and the Prime Minister should have talked to his Pakistani counterpart. He also wanted to know whether New Delhi would hold to the composite dialogue process.

Mayawati of the BSP called for a review of India’s foreign policy and V. Maitreyan of the AIADMK said that it was because of the failed handling of foreign affairs, even neighbours had become hostile to India.

Kanimozhi of the DMK said the country was looking to the distant future, ignoring the present problems caused by its neighbours.

Sukhendu Seker Roy of the TMC said the Defence Minister had not categorically blamed terrorists for the attack as the headline of his statement read ‘Ambush incident by Pak Army.’ He should explain the ambiguity. Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) said the Defence Minister had been ‘insulted’ during his visit to China as India had put itself in a pitiable position.

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