Firing at Line of Control again, Manmohan calls it ‘worrisome’

14 May 2008
The Indian Express
Express News Service

SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: Barely 10 days before President Pratibha Patil’s first ever visit to the region, a major violation of the 2003 ceasefire took place on the Line of Control (LoC) in Tanghdhar sector on Tuesday evening. An Indian Army post on the border, situated at a height of over 9,000 feet, came under “heavy and unprovoked” fire from the Pakistani Army at 6 pm that lasted for almost 15 minutes. While no one was injured in the incident, the Army said eight to ten rounds of 82-mm Mortars and 70 rounds of Heavy Machine Gun fire were directed at its bunkers from a Pakistani Army post across the border. Voicing his concern over the firing, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the development as “worrisome”. The incident comes five days after the Border Security Forces (BSF) lodged a protest with the Pakistani Rangers against violation of the ceasefire along the International Border. On May 9, the Pakistani Rangers had resorted to heavy firing on the BSF in Samba sector of Jammu and Kashmir. “Pakistani troops deployed at Papa post on the LoC in Tanghdhar sector fired on our troops at around 6 pm on Tuesday night,” said defence spokesman Lt Col Anil Mathur. “The Pakistani troops used light and heavy machine guns to fire on our bunkers,” he added. The Indian Army said that it did not retaliate to the Pakistan firing. However, Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen A S Sekhon called up his Pakistani counterpart on Wednesday afternoon to register a strong protest against the incident. The two sides also held a flag meeting at Tanghdhar in the evening to discuss the matter. “We have called for a DGMO-level flag meeting in which a formal complaint will be lodged with the Pakistani Army,” the Mathur said. While Army officials conceded that minor violations of the 2003 ceasefire take place occasionally, they said that Tuesday’s event was surprising as there was no simultaneous infiltration attempt in the region. “In the past, the Pakistani Army has never owned up to cross-border firing and has blamed militants for the incidents. However, this is a clear case of violation as the fire came directly from the Pakistani posts and there was no infiltration attempt,” a senior officer at the Army headquarters said. The Army is taking up the matter seriously, especially as President Patil is schedule to visit forward posts in the same area on May 23. Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor had also visited the forward posts in the same location last Saturday. With the summer heat melting the snow along mountain passes on the LoC, intelligence inputs and police reports say that militants have started infiltrating through north Kashmir’s Kupwara and Tanghdhar sectors. Sources said that militants have been using relatively tougher routes of Tanghdhar sector to sneak into the Valley. Latest police estimates say that 100 to 120 militants have infiltrated into the Valley in the past one month. General Deepak Kapoor during his visit to Tanghdhar had also said that infiltration bids might rise in the coming days.