A day after it promised “heavy retribution” for the killing of three of its soldiers — one of the bodies was mutilated — by Pakistanis who crossed the Line of Control in the Machil sector of north Kashmir, the Indian Army launched a fire assault Wednesday against Pakistani posts at different points along the LoC.
Pakistan said it lost three Army personnel, including a Captain, while nine civilians were killed and another nine injured when Indian fire hit a bus on the Neelum Valley road in the Dudhnial sector in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The Pakistan Army named its three dead as Captain Taimoor Ali Khan, Havaldar Mushtaq Hussain and Lance Naik Ghulam Hussain.
India said Pakistan opened fire on civilian targets in the sectors of Machil, Keran and Gurez. Shells landed close to the Kishanganga dam project, forcing workers to take shelter in the tunnels there. The villages of Kanzelwan, Kufri and Malikpora, local officials said, too were hit, but there was no loss of life.
In the evening, the Ministry of Defence said Lt General Ranbir Singh, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), spoke to his Pakistan counterpart Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza following a Pakistani request for unscheduled talks on hotline in the aftermath of the Indian Army’s “punitive fire assaults”.
Major General Mirza informed Lt General Singh about civilian casualties on the Pakistani side of the LoC. Lt General Singh expressed grief over the civilian casualties but said retaliatory firing by Indian troops only targeted locations from where Pakistan had initiated ceasefire violations. The Ministry said the DGMO conveyed concerns over casualties among Indian civilians and soldiers due to unprovoked Pakistani firing.
Raising the issue of infiltration attempts by terrorists and the mutilation of the bodies of Indian soldiers, Lt General Singh told the Pakistan DGMO to exercise strict control on his troops and refrain from nefarious activities. This would lead to return of normalcy along the LoC, the Ministry quoted Lt General Singh as telling Major General Mirza.
The Pakistan Army, in its statement, said it lodged a protest over the strike on the bus. It said an ambulance which approached the bus to evacuate the injured too was fired upon. The Pakistan DGMO, the statement said, conveyed to his counterpart that Pakistan reserved the right to respond at the time and place of its choosing.
Indian military sources said the bus had been hit by accident when it unexpectedly traversed a bend while troops stationed on the ridgeline above were bringing fire on the road to disrupt military traffic.
In New Delhi, Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah was summoned by Gopal Baglay, Joint Secretary (in-charge of Pakistan) in the Ministry of External Affairs, who conveyed India’s strong reaction to continued ceasefire violations and mutilation of bodies of its soldiers.
On his part, Shah protested “the recent spate of unprovoked Indian firing and shelling” which, he claimed, had so far resulted in the loss of more than 50 civilian lives including women, infants and the elderly, besides several Pakistani soldiers.
The trading of shells on the LoC comes just two days ahead of the thirteen anniversary of a ceasefire that both countries agreed upon in 2003.
The killing of three Indian soldiers on the LoC were the latest in a series of violent clashes that have taken place since India raided terror launch pads following the Uri attack.
Figures obtained by The Indian Express show that violence has escalated sharply since the surgical strikes on the night of September 28, with 12 military personnel and 12 civilians recorded killed in 279 exchanges of fire recorded until November 15.
While official figures will be compiled after the month ends, government sources said the number of fire exchanges had edged past 300, and the number of military fatalities had risen to 17. No fatality had been recorded on the Indian side of the LoC until September 28, while just four exchanges of fire were reported — a record low after a steady uptick in violence which began in 2008.
Naked aggression: Nawaz Sharif
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif termed as “naked aggression” the “unprovoked firing” by India across the LoC that resulted in the death of civilians and soldiers and said India had failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation.— PTI