India and Pakistan warring over the fate of two Pakistani soldiers bodies

July 1999 News

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India and Pakistan warring over the fate of two Pakistani soldiers bodies

15 July 1999
Indian Express

NEW DELHI: After Kargil, in which over a thousand people have died, India and Pakistan are now warring over the fate of the bodies of two Pakistani soldiers. New Delhi insists Islamabad claim them as its own before they are handed over. Islamabad wants them sent to the International Committee of the Red Cross or the Pak High Commission for verification.

Capt. Imtiaz Malik of Pakistan's 165 Mortar Regiment, whose body was found at Point 4875 in the Mushkoh sub-sector, and Capt. Kamal Sher of 12 Northern Light Infantry, whose body was found on Tiger Hill in Drass, are now at the centre of a diplomatic tussle.

Government sources say India can't "just hand over any two bodies to Pakistan officials if they are not claimed by them. If they are not Pakistani nationals, what locus standi does Islamabad have to take the bodies in the first place?"

Pakistan's hesitation in claiming the bodies, on the other hand, seems to stem from its stated position that none of its Army regulars were involvedin the Kargil conflict. Claiming the bodies would mean a negation of this stand. Said an MEA spokesman: "The identities of these two officers were established by correspondence found on their person."

The spokesman said it was "unprecedented and unheard of for bodies to be sent abroad in this fashion for the purpose of identification, even before their nationality and military identity are established."

Over the last three days, both governments have been going back and forth with their respective statements. The ICRC, which has been asked to intermediate on this issue, waits on the sidelines.

ICRC's deputy representative in the New Delhi office D. Allistone confirmed that the ICRC was the "intermediary on this question between the two parties," and said that since "talks were going on" between the two parties, he couldn't say more.

It seems though that on July 12, the Pakistan government got in touch with the ICRC, asking them to mediate with New Delhi and take the bodies from them. On thesame day, New Delhi had directly conveyed to Islamabad the details of the two bodies they had in possession. There was no response.

The ICRC approached New Delhi on July 13, stating that Islamabad had requested them to contact India for handing over "the bodies of two officers about which they had heard," the MEA spokesman said. But the Pakistani request did not include the names and identities of the two officers despite the fact that New Delhi had given them that information.

New Delhi then provided the ICRC with all the information, along with photographs of the bodies and copies of correspondence found on their person which identify them.

Islamabad then told the ICRC that the material furnished by New Delhi was "insufficient" to establish the identities of the offices and that they wanted the bodies to be handed over and sent to Islamabad for verification.

The government also told the ICRC to tell the Pakistani authorities that it would be willing to receive family members of the deceased oranybody else authorised by Islamabad to come here and verify the bodies.

There is no response from Islamabad so far, the spokesman said, adding that New Delhi would now keep the bodies "as long as possible" in the circumstances of deteriorating weather conditions.

Meanwhile, official sources here said the government had not decided yet what to do with the Pakistani prisoner of war Inayat Ali captured on the front and currently being interrogated at the Red Fort. The view here is that if Islamabad doesn't want to claim the dead, it would not want to claim the living.

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