India, Pakistan Agree to ‘De-escalate’ LOC Tensions


NEW DELHI: Indian and Pakistani forces Wednesday reached  an ‘understanding’ to de-escalate tensions on Kashmir’s dividing Line of Control (LoC) after days of bitter stand-off that had threatened their uneasy ties.

“An understanding has been arrived at between the two director-generals of military operations to de-escalate the situation along the Line of Control,” spokesman Jagdeep Dahiya said.

Dahiya said that the two sides’ senior military commanders had spoken for 10 minutes over the telephone where they reached their agreement.

“The two DGMOs spoke to each other at 10:00 am for 10 minutes and the Pakistan DGMO said strict instructions have been passed not to violate the ceasefire,” he said.

Dahiya said Indian troops stationed along the border would also not breach the ceasefire forged between the two nuclear rivals in 2003.

“We have always upheld the ceasefire and have only retaliated,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman did not give further details of the conversation between India’s DGMO Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia and his Pakistani counterpart, Major General Ashfaq Nadeem.

An Indian military source in Kashmir told AFP there had been no cross-border firing since the two generals spoke.

Earlier, the village of Dara Sher Khan in Pakistan’s Tatta Pani sector, where a solider was killed Tuesday night, appeared deserted on Wednesday as residents cowered in their homes.

The two generals spoke hours after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar hit out at strident comments by Indian politicians over the clashes, and warned against “upping the ante” between e nuclear-armed neighbours.

Pakistan’s foreign minister went on a strident diplomatic offensive in the US on Tuesday, accusing India of “war-mongering” and embarking on a “narrative of hostility.”

“I thought war-mongering was a thing of yesteryears and we had put it behind us,”  Khar said at the Asia Society in New York late Tuesday.

“It is deeply disturbing to hear statements which are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement.”

India says two of its soldiers have been killed, one of them beheaded, since hostilities erupted along the LoC. It has demanded the return of the soldier’s head which is still missing.

Khar again denied Indian accusations that Pakistani forces had beheaded one of the two soldiers and said an inquiry had found “no evidence” of the deaths.

The two countries have fought three wars since their independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir. But Khar said they had to get over their “narrative of hostility”.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that there can be “no business as usual” with Pakistan following the brutal killing of two Indian soldiers on Jan 8. 

India also held back the Visa on Arrival regime for senior Pakistani citizens and Pakistani hockey players for the Indian Hockey League were asked to return on Tuesday.

Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh had Tuesday termed the killing of the Indian soldiers “an unpardonable act” and said his forces reserved the “right to retaliate”.

“The doors to dialogue are open,” Khar said. “We need to meet at any level, I think we need to call each other, we need to become mature countries which know how to handle their truth.” On Tuesday India was meant to begin allowing Pakistanis over the age of 65 to obtain a visa on arrival at the border in Punjab.

However the programme was put on hold indefinitely hours after Indian officials said it had come into force, although the delay was attributed to “technical” reasons.

Nine Pakistani players were also withdrawn from a new field hockey league in India and asked to return home just before Singh’s comments.

‘India doesn’t want to hinder economic ties with Pak’

Despite mounting tension along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, caused by the Pakistan Army’s repeated ceasefire violations, the Indian Government on Wednesday said that it did not want to hinder economic ties with Islamabad.

Asked whether government will reconsider engaging Pakistan on the bilateral trade front, especially in the wake of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s strong remark that it would be difficult to pursue “business as usual” with Islamabad, Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said New Delhi is not thinking of breaking offeconomic ties, which he added has been developed after enormous effort over the years.

“The recent activities from Pakistan are provocative and it is a matter of serious concern, but we have not thought of breaking the economic relationship till now. Our trade relations are very important for the economic development of SAARC nations,” said Sharma.

“We have been dealing with the economic tie-up in a very transparent manner to make South Asia an integral part of global economic development,” he added. Compiled from Agencies

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