DG (South Asia and SAARC) summons Indian envoy after reports that Pak. Army officer died, one soldier was seriously injured

The Director General (South Asia and SAARC) on Wednesday summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Baglay to the Pakistan Foreign Office and lodged a strong protest over alleged unprovoked firing by Indian soldiers in Kargil’s Shakma sector on Tuesday night. A military official here said Pakistan Army Captain died while a soldier was seriously wounded in the firing.

Indian troops allegedly resorted to firing at 23.15 hours and the Pakistani troops also responded “effectively” to the firing. The exchange of fire continued till 0215 hours.

In a statement, Pakistan conveyed its serious concern on ceasefire violations across the LoC by the Indian Army over the past few weeks and the escalation of tensions, which was “counterproductive and detrimental for stability and peace in the region”. Maintaining that Pakistan was committed to a constructive, sustained and result-oriented process of engagement, the statement called upon India to take serious and credible measures to prevent further ceasefire violations and reduce tensions.

Flashpoint in Poonch

The latest incident comes in the wake of Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s statement in Parliament on Monday that the Army would effectively retaliate against cross-border firing and India’s restraint should not be taken for granted. Five Indian soldiers were killed earlier this month on the LoC in Poonch sector. However, Pakistan also claimed that four civilians were kidnapped by the Indian Army.

Mr. Sharif, in his first ever address to the nation on Monday, called for good ties with India and a joint fight against other evils such as poverty, ignorance and disease.

Since January this year, border tensions have escalated and while leaders from both countries talk of peace, there is uncertainty in the air.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed his interest in interacting with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in New York next month. However, in the backdrop of the LoC skirmishes, a pall of doubt remains over the proposed talks even as Indian public response has been muted.

Antony not optimistic

In view of the recent killings of five Indians in Poonch and rise in ceasefire violations — India says there have been 117 ceasefire violations along the LOC in 2012 and 82 till August this year — Mr. Antony himself is not very optimistic about the proposed meeting between Mr. Sharif and Dr. Singh on the sidelines of the New York General Assembly.

"There has to be a conducive atmosphere for dialogue. An environment in which terrorism and violence is perpetrated against India is not the right environment. Pakistan has stated that it will not allow its territory to be used against India and is committed to peaceful relations. This is a priority for us and we will see how see how things evolve,’’ Foreign Office spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told newspersons in New Delhi on Wednesday.

With the election of a new Government in Islamabad, there were hopes that India-Pakistan dialogue would be brought back on track after having been in limbo for nearly a year due to recurring small but vicious incidents.

Three rounds of meetings were conducted during the year — in Pakistan, India and Brunei. But any progress in ties was eroded by Poonch incident.

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