In stark contrast to the stand taken by a group of retired diplomats and intelligence and military officials, the India chapter of India-Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace (IPSI) has urged the government not to relent in its resolve to improve relations with Pakistan.

At the same time, it condemned the killing of five Indian soldiers by the Pakistan army, an act which “deserves the severest censure and condemnation”. Despite such grave provocations, the former soldiers felt an uninterrupted and an uninterruptible dialogue process was the only option to follow the peace process and resolution.

The call for continuing with dialogue despite the killings that had vitiated the atmosphere and set “the clock of peace in the reverse direction” came days after 40 diplomats, intelligence and military officials — many of them holding office when the Kargil conflict and the Kandahar hijacking took place — called on the government not to walk away from the dialogue process.

Calling itself sincerely committed to cordial relations and friendship with Pakistan, “as we sincerely believe there are dividends in peace which shall usher prosperity and empowerment of people in both countries”, IPSI pointed out that it had remained committed to the idea of dialogue despite several setbacks. The meeting of 50 India chapter members of IPSI was held in Chandimandir near Chandigarh on August 4, two days before the killing of the five Indian soldiers on the Poonch border. While the group of 40 former Indian government officers appeared to have been swayed by the media focus on the killings, the former soldiers with IPSI reconfirmed the resolution whose core kernel was that it was better to talk rather than go for hostilities, said Cdr (retd.) Ranjit Rai, who was authorised by IPSI’s India chapter to issue the statement.

The India chapter consists of about 150 war veterans who fought the 1965, 1971 and the Kargil war but joined IPSI formed by the late Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande in 1993. The Pakistanis include Brigadier (retd.) Rao Abid Hamid, who had campaigned for the release of Indian spy Roop Lal Saharihya; and Gen. (retd.) Nasir Akhtar, a former corps commander who lost his brother in the 1965 war. Among the former Indian military men are Major General (retd.) Tej Kaul, Brigade Commander in J&K at the peak of militancy in 1997; Admiral (retd.) L. Ramdas; and Col. (retd.) Virendra Sahai Verma, who fought two wars against Pakistan.