After Ufa Hopes, Flare-up On Border

16 July 2015
The Hindu
Suhasini Haidar and Devesh K. Pandey

New Delhi: Admitting that the situation on the India-Pakistan border had 'worsened' in the past few days, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar on Thursday accused Pakistan of 'unprovoked' firing on the International Border and the Line of Control that left one woman dead and several others injured. India also accused Pakistan of aiding an infiltration attempt by 'suspected terrorists' in the Jammu sector. The escalation in violence is of particular concern as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to visit Jammu on Friday. Mr. Jaishankar denied allegations by Pakistani Rangers that they had shot down an Indian drone on Wednesday. At a press conference held shortly after a high-level meeting of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, he said despite several calls to Islamabad on Wednesday, the Rangers continued gun and mortar fire. 'As per our procedures, DIG, BSF in Jammu sought to make telephonic contact with Sector Commander, Sialkot, four times between 10.45 hrs and 12.30 hrs on Wednesday. He received no response,' the Foreign Secretary said. He said Mr. Doval had also contacted the Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit directly, and spoken to him thrice on Wednesday. The Foreign Secretary also spoke to the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, TCA Raghavan, and met Foreign Ministry officials. '[The NSA] emphasised the seriousness of the unprovoked firing by Pakistan and conveyed that we would retaliate if it continued. Accordingly, yesterday (Wednesday) night, our forces retaliated,' Mr. Jaishankar said. The exchange of charges and fire comes less than a week after the meeting between Mr. Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia, where they spoke about measures to decrease tensions at the LoC. 'The Ufa agreement seems to be dead in the water,' Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters. Following the unprovoked firing by Pakistan along the Line of Control and the International Border. Home Ministry sources told The Hindu that the forces had been instructed to give a 'befitting response' and 'retaliate in equal measure to any aggression from Pakistan.' However, Pakistani military ISPR said four Pakistani civilians had been killed and five injured in 'unprovoked firing' from BSF posts in India Meanwhile, Indian Army and Air Force officers denied charges by Pakistan that it had shot down a spy drone in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). 'Some reports of a drone crash in PoK are being referred to. No drone or UAV crash of Indian Army has taken place,' a senior Army officer said. The exchange of charges and fire comes less than a week after the meeting between Mr. Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia, where they spoke about measures to decrease tensions at the LoC. The two sides had agreed to meetings between the NSAs to discuss terrorism, and the DG BSF and DG Pakistani Rangers as well as the Army's DGMOs to discuss incidents of border firing. Since then, however, controversial statements by Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz about the joint statement, and criticism in Pakistan on the exclusion of Kashmir from the wording of the statement have led to more tensions. 'The Ufa agreement seems to be dead in the water,' Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters. However, when asked if the firing would impact the agreements made in the joint statement at Ufa, Foreign Secretary Jaishankar said the government remains, 'committed to steps that contribute to ensuring peace and tranquillity on the border. However, there should be no doubt that any unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side would meet with effective and forceful response from our forces.' The Pakistani foreign ministry spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said Indian actions at the LoC were 'against the spirit of the understandings reached in Ufa,' but added that Pakistan would not 'turn away from discussing outstanding issues with India'.