M A I N   N E W S

Pak told to probe LoC firing
MEA downplays incident
Rajeev Sharma and Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19
While the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) downplayed last night’s incident of firing of 13 mortars in Poonch sector from across the Line of Control, the Indian Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO) spoke to his Pakistani counterpart today pointing out the violation of the ceasefire and asking him to investigate the incident.

Islamabad has officially denied its army’s involvement in the incident and come up with suggestions that it can be the handiwork of militants operating from within the territory under the Indian control.

South Block mandarins were in a wait-and-watch mode today and did not want to jump to any hasty conclusions or actions which could jeopardise the first-ever Indo-Pakistan peacetime military ceasefire, effective from the midnight of November 23, 2003. The MEA kept itself out of the picture and the government’s perceptions were conveyed by the Ministry of Defence.

Vice-Chief of the Indian Army, B.S. Thakur aired the broader policy of the Government of India on the issue when he said India would observe restraint. Besides, he said this incident could not be considered as a “trigger point” and that a series of discussions were taking place between the two countries at various levels.

India’s DGMO Lieut-Gen A.S. Bahia spoke to his Pakistani counterpart at 9.30 am, conveyed India’s concern over the incident and asked him to investigate the incident, “the first time that weapons of such calibre have been used since ceasefire along the LoC,” General Thakur told reporters after assuming charge.

He said Pakistan had initially denied involvement, but on being given the exact details, said it would check and respond.

The Indian DGMO was apparently assured by his Pakistani counterpart that Islamabad would take note of the restraint displayed by the Indian forces.

It is suspected that the mortar firing took place in retaliation to the foiling of a major infiltration bid in the area just a day before in which five infiltrators were killed.

Defence sources said Kashmir militants were known to have used 60 mm mortars in the past but not 82 mm mortars.

Both varieties of the mortars are used by the Pakistan army — 60 mm at the platoon level and 82 mm at the battalion level. The 60 mm mortar has a range of 600 m while the 82 mm mortar can go upto 5 km.

The Government of India is monitoring the LoC firing incident at the highest level. New Delhi hopes that it is a one-off incident and not a violation of the 14-month-old ceasefire.

An American diplomat in the US Embassy here, when asked whether Ambassador Mulford or his deputy Robert Blake had spoken to any Indian officials in this connection, said they were in touch with the Indian officials.

“The USA has no direct role in this. It is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. The two are currently in a dialogue process, which is a good thing. We support the dialogue process and shall continue to do so,” the diplomat said.


Trishul test-fired

Balasore, January 19
Trishul, India’s most sophisticated short range surface-to-air missile, was test-fired from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, about 15 km from here today, defence sources said. Indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher at about 12.53 pm. — PTI 

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