Soon after Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stressed on Thursday that Islamabad had no intentions of escalating tensions with India over recent violations in the Line of Control (LoC) ceasefire agreement, the Pakistan Army claimed another soldier had been killed in cross-border firing by India in the afternoon.
“Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing at a post named Kundi in the Hotspring sector in Battal at 2.40 p.m,” said a statement by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). This made it clear the Indians did not cross the LoC.
As of late evening on Thursday, there was no reaction from the Foreign Office on the latest ceasefire violation, as information was being gathered from the remote area. Labouring the point that it had displayed restraint in comparison to India while reacting to Sunday’s “raid on a Pakistani check-post by Indian troops,” the Foreign Office appeared to prefer to take its time in reacting. Indications were that the official protest would be lodged with the Indian diplomatic mission on Friday.
Nonetheless, this week’s incidents have already taken its toll on the cross-LoC trade as Pakistan closed their check-post on the Poonch-Rawalakot trading route.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has approached the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan to investigate the ceasefire violations. This was confirmed by Ms. Khar at a media briefing, during which she added that Pakistan had nothing to hide: “We would want a third party to investigate the matter to set the record straight.”
Earlier, Ms. Khar underscored the difference in the responses from the two sides. “We followed the mechanisms specified for dealing with such incidents. Unfortunately, there were contradictory statements from India. Their Northern Army Commander said there was no decapitation, no beheading. Yet, somebody very responsible said there was. Unfortunately, there was a very strong statement. Still, what you saw yesterday was an attempt to de-escalate on their side also from those statements.”
Ms. Khar said Pakistan was now looking at this region in a different way and extending a hand of friendship to all its neighbours like never before.
Optimistic about the peace process weathering this storm, the Minister said: “Because of some unnecessary statements, [negative] atmospherics were created which I hope both countries will show their commitment to correct. If we have a mechanism to face such challenges, then as a responsible country we should revert to those mechanisms that exist so that we can continue with our relations as normal neighbours. Therefore, contact between the DGMOs was made and the High Commissioners called in.”
As to the inferences being drawn by the Indian media between the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistan army, Ms. Khar said the government of Pakistan would not respond to every statement that came out of India. “There was an official statement that came out and there was an official response to that.”
Meanwhile, Pakistani civil society looked on with alarm at the sudden slide in bilateral relations. Raza Rumi of the Jinnah Institute said the two governments must talk to each other to “end this tit-for-tat operations at the LoC and save the advances made in India-Pakistan relations.”