ISLAMABAD/SIALKOT/NEW DELHI -  Pakistan on Monday expressed serious concern over the continuous ceasefire violations by Indian border troops across the de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC) over past couple of days.
The Foreign Office summoned the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in the afternoon and raised the issue of unprovoked firing by Indian troops which resulted in the death of a civilian in Donga Gambhir at Batal and Satwal sector.
But this civilised way of warning was probably not received well across the border as the India Border Security Force (BSF) again opened fire in Narowal Sector of the Working Boundary, wounding another civilian. Pakistan Rangers then returned fire to stop the aggression.
Also on Monday the Delhi and Mumbai offices of Pakistan International Airline (PIA) received security threats following which the Indian External Affairs Ministry assured Pakistan of provision of necessary security.
The latest incident of ceasefire violation took place when “Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing in the wee hours Monday” in three areas along the LoC, a military official said. “Pakistani troops effectively responded to Indian firing,” he said, adding that one civilian was killed “due to unprovoked Indian shelling”.
In a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry, Islamabad called upon New Delhi to uphold the ceasefire over the LoC and reiterated its commitment to the Ceasefire Agreement of 2003. Pakistan also underlined the need for abiding by and strengthening existing military mechanism to ensure that such violations do not recur.
Foreign Office spokesman said Pakistan is committed to a constructive‚ sustained and result-oriented process of engagement with India and believes that serious efforts need to be made in maintaining a positive atmosphere and avoid negative propaganda.
Tension also gripped the PIA Delhi Office on Monday after some unidentified people vandalised the office premises and smeared black paint on the display board outside the office in Connaught Place. They also left threatening leaflets for the PIA employees. The Pakistan High Commission uploaded a picture of a pamphlet asking Pakistan to “stop cross-LOC firing and attacks on Indian soldiers”, besides shutting down the PIA offices.
According to reports, unidentified people entered the office premises Sunday night and ransacked the furniture outside PIA office. The incident was reported only after few PIA staff reported to work early Monday morning. The invaders also left threatening leaflets for the PIA employees. When asked Delhi police officials refused to comment on who was behind the incident. It is learnt that the CCTV camera installed outside the PIA office was turned off.
Spokesperson for Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi said in a statement, “Pakistan has requested Indian government to ensure security and safety of PIA offices in Delhi and Mumbai after it received threats.” While raising the issue with the Joint Secretary (PAI) in the Indian the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner underlined that it was a “threat to connectivity”. The official sources said the ministry has assured that all necessary security would be provided.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been vocal in his desire for better relations with India since his election in May, but recent flare-ups have tested resolve on both sides. Both the states have been trying to restart stalled peace talks, possibly as early as this month, as well as a possible meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif, in New York in September.
But the tensions ran high in both countries after last week’s killing of five Indian soldiers by unidentified militants set off a wave of skirmishes between the two nuclear-armed rivals. The Indian army alleged that the attackers, who ambushed and killed their soldiers in the Poonch region on August 6, came from Pakistan and they were in Pak Army uniforms. India initially even put a direct blame on Pak Army but the claim was vehemently denied by Islamabad.
While tit-for-tat shelling and machinegun fire are common along the 740-km long LoC that divides Kashmir, the current round of fighting is one of the most intense since a ceasefire was signed in 2003. It has been linked to protests in both countries and rowdy scenes in India’s parliament. Under pressure from opposition politicians, the government has hinted at retaliation.
The disputed Himalayan region was split between India and Pakistan in 1948 but they both claim it in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir and India accuses Pakistan of supporting separatist rebels fighting its rule in its part of Kashmir since 1989. The two armies have been exchanging fire on the front line since Tuesday, straining the ceasefire that has largely held for nearly a decade.
The Indian army patrolled an area close to Poonch on India’s side of the fence on Monday after three people died in riots between Hindus and Muslims over the weekend. Opposition parties linked the rioting to the renewed border tensions, because some of the protesters involved had brandished a Pakistani flag.
“It is not a law and order situation, this is an issue of India’s sovereignty,” said Arun Jaitley, a senior leader of the Bharitya Janata Party. Jaitley was prevented from visiting the riot-hit area of Kishtwar on Sunday, and Kashmir’s chief minister, Omar Abdullah, accused him of trying to enflame tensions for political gain ahead of elections next year. Sporadic protests and clashes with police continued on Monday.
On Pakistan’s side of the border, hundreds of people on Monday took to the street in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir, accusing India of stepping up attacks. “Down with India! Long live the Kashmir freedom movement!” they chanted as the crowd marched towards the Muzaffarabad office of the UN Military Observer Group which monitors the ceasefire.
India has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers in Kashmir to put down an armed revolt that began in 1989. In recent years, violence has ebbed, but there has been little movement on a political settlement. And media have reported Pakistan might redeploy some of its troops from the Afghan border, where the army is fighting a separate Taliban-linked insurgency, to the eastern frontier, but an army official said the option was not on the table.