Amid repeated ceasefire violations across the Line of Control and International Border, the Army is learnt to have warned its Pakistani counterpart of an “effective, immediate and appropriate” response.
The Border Security Force has, meanwhile, refused to call Pakistan for a flag meeting and asked the Home and External Affairs ministries to raise the issue of ceasefire violations through “diplomatic channels”.
The Army’s tough message was conveyed during the DGMO-level telephonic conversations which took place on Tuesday morning. In the evening, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley is learnt to have met the three service chiefs to discuss the border situation.
“Directors of Military Operations of the two countries held telephonic talks at 11.30am. The Pakistani side complained that India has resorted to unprovoked ceasefire violation. We said that it is instead the Pakistani side which has carried out unprovoked firing,” said a Defence Ministry official.
“The Indian side expressed concerns about civilian casualties and warned that the Indian side will reserve the right to carry out a befitting response any time. Our response would be effective, immediate and appropriate.”
Heavy firing from both sides continued through the night and in the afternoon at Balnoi. The Pakistani side, sources said, involved Pakistani Rangers, their Army and support from “non-state actors”. They fired 82mm mortar shells targeting civilian areas along the international border.
The Indian side responded with infantry weapons such as light machine guns and 81mm mortars. By Tuesday evening, as per ministry records, five civilian casualties and 34 injuries were recorded on the Indian side. Pakistan, on the other hand, claimed loss of four lives.
Separately, BSF officials said they would give a “soldierly response” to Pakistan and not invite them for any kind of flag meeting. A senior Home Ministry official said during the last ceasefire violations in July and August, which lasted for 43 days, they called Pakistan at least 18 times for a flag meeting.
“Our men kept standing with white flags at the designated meeting place on several occasions but nobody from their side turned up,” said a senior Home Ministry official about BSF’s frustrations.
“We stand by our decision not to ask Pakistan for a flag meeting. We have seen in the past that such meetings don’t work with them,” said DK Pathak, the chief of BSF.
“Diplomatic channel is the last resort we take to end such violations. This time we have suggested that a note be moved to Pakistan to stop the firing along the international border,” said another senior official.
Pakistan has already raised the issue through diplomatic channels with India.
A Defence Ministry official said ceasefire violations, terrorist camps and infiltration attempts were “closely linked”. He said up to 1,000 terrorists are currently getting training in 20 active camps in areas such as the Gurez, Machhal, Keran and Tangdhar sectors across the LoC.
“We killed 17 terrorists in September and October. While ceasefire violations are happening south of Pir Panjal, the infiltration attempts are on the north side of Pir Panjal ranges,” a senior official said.
While yet another DGMO-level talk is likely to be held shortly, according to sources, there has been no proposal of a flag meeting from either side. “We are in a position of strength. We will not ask for a flag meeting,” an official said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has said that India has been non-responsive towards Islamabad’s peace efforts. “We extended a hand of friendship to India. However, with the abrupt cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks, the Indian side has shunned all our peace overtures,” a statement said.
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