LoC Tension: IAF Chief Talks Tough, Govt Stresses Diplomacy

NEW DELHI: In a veiled warning, the IAF chief said Saturday India may have to "look at some other options" if Pakistan continues to violate the ceasefire on the LoC with impunity even as the government said it will not buckle to "wild calls for revenge and reaction" over the killing and beheading of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops.

Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne termed violations of the Line of Control (LoC) and the 2003 ceasefire agreement by Pakistan as "totally unacceptable". "We are watching the situation carefully, if the violations continue, perhaps we may have to think of some other options for compliance," he said, but declined to elaborate on the options.

"Options are options...If violations continue we might have to look at the whole issue again." The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief's strong words came a day after Pakistan summoned the Indian envoy in Islamabad to lodge its protest over the killing of a Pakistani soldier in alleged firing by Indian troops Thursday.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, in an interview to NDTV news channel, however said the government was not "going to be pressurised by wild calls for revenge and reaction. 

"We will do what is in the best interest of the country and peace, keeping in mind that there is a lot at stake."  Heightened border tensions "demands very responsible and sensible and moderate behaviour", he said. 

Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari said the Jan 8 killing and mutilation of two Indian soldiers was in violation of "rules of engagement".

"Government is doing everything at the strategic level to express its anger. We have said clearly that the incident is inhuman. The incident is in complete violation of the Geneva convention and rules of engagement," he said at a press conference.

Pakistan has not responded so far to India's request for a brigadier-level flag meeting. "We are still waiting (for a response)," the Indian Army spokesperson said. 

There was no firing Saturday on the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, he informed. The army also clarified that of the two killed Indian soldiers, one was "mutilated and beheaded" while the other was "mutilated".

Border tensions between India and Pakistan have risen sharply since the Jan 6 death of a Pakistani soldier in alleged firing by Indian forces along the Line of Control in Kashmir. 

Two days later, Pakistani soldiers killed and beheaded two Indian soldiers in the Mendhar sector in Poonch district.  India had summoned the Pakistani High Commissioner Salman Bashir to lodge its protest over the killing. Political parties have called for tough action against Pakistan.

Former BJP president Rajnath Singh said India should recall its high commissioner to Pakistan and scale down the level of diplomatic ties. He said that recent incident on the LoC in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir indicates that Pakistan was not keen to improve relations.

Congress leader Ambika Soni said the brutal killing of two Indian soldiers was a hindrance to the confidence building measures between India and Pakistan.

In Poonch district, the civil society appealed to the governments of India and Pakistan to restore peace and respect the 2003 ceasefire agreement. In a written appeal, prominent citizens of the town said: "For the people of Poonch region as others living close to the LoC, the ceasefire (agreement of November 2003) brought peace, security and created atmosphere for development in the border areas." Agencies

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