Tension mounts, Pak suspends bus service

Islamabad summons Delhis envoy to lodge protest

Tension mounts, Pak suspends bus service

Pakistan on Friday suspended a bus service to India in the wake of escalating tension
between the two neighbours amid reports of continued firing across the Line of Control (LoC). 

The “Paigam-e-Aman” (Message of Peace), a cross-LoC bus service between Chakan-Da-Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir and Rawalakote in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), was suspended on Friday. On Thursday, the Pakistani Army suspended the cross-LoC trade through the Chakan-Da-Bagh check-post and refused to allow trucks carrying vegetables and other perishable items from J&K to enter PoK.

Tension continued to escalate along the LoC with the Pakistan Army reportedly firing at Indian Army posts in the Krishna Ghati and Sona Gali areas in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. Defence Secretary Sashikant Sharma had a meeting with the National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon at the Prime Minister’s Office and the duo reviewed the situation along the LoC.

The Pakistan foreign secretary summoned New Delhi’s envoy in Islamabad to lodge a protest over firing by the Indian Army that allegedly resulted in the death of a soldier. India, too, on Friday said the recent brutal killing of its soldiers by Pakistan Army personnel along the LoC was not an “isolated incident” and truce violation by the neighbouring country’s troopers has been on the rise over the past one year.

“It is not an isolated incident. It is increasing from the last one year. Ceasefire violations are also increasing. It is a matter of concern to us,” said Defence Minister A K Antony.

Referring to the killing of Indian troopers by soldiers of the Pakistan Army on Tuesday, he said the “tragic and provocative action” two days back was “a turning point”. Asked if New Delhi would review its policy on talks with Islamabad, Antony said that the issue was discussed by the Cabinet Committee on Security on Thursday. He, however, did not say what transpired in the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India’s Director-General Military Operation Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia is in touch with his Pakistani counterpart Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem. New Delhi also proposed a brigadier-level meeting between the armies of the two countries to defuse  tension, but Pakistan has not responded yet.

New Delhi’s envoy to Islamabad, Sharat Sabharwal was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Pakistan government. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani handed over to Sabharwal a communiqué formally protesting against alleged firing by the Indian Army across the LoC in the Hot Spring sector near Battal in the Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, leading to the death of a soldier of the neighbouring country.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi, Sabharwal denied the allegation against the Indian Army and told Jilani that Pakistan Army personnel first started unprovoked firing across the LoC on Thursday. “There was a controlled response from our side,”  MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin quoted Sabharwal as telling Jilani.

Sabharwal is also understood to have told Jilani that India would expect Pakistan to maintain the sanctity of the LoC, which had been the most important confidence-building measures between the two countries.

Earlier, India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan Gopal Bagley was summoned to the Foreign Office in Islamabad on Monday. He was given a protest note on the alleged killing of a Pakistan Army soldier in the firing by Indian Army across the LoC on Sunday.

Salman Bashir, Pakistan’s envoy to India,  was also called by the MEA in New Delhi on Wednesday, when Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai lodged a strong protest over the killing of two Indian Army soldiers by Pakistani troopers at Mendhar sector in Poonch district on Tuesday. New Delhi rejected Islamabad’s offer for a probe into the incidents by United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, stating that the panel’s mandate lapsed in 1972.

Trucks queued up

About 65 trucks—many with perishable items like vegetables and fruit—have been queuing up at Ckakan-Da-Bagh check-post, which is not far from the scene of firing between the two armies in the Mendhar sector in Poonch district since Thursday, as the Pakistani Army instructed the local officials not to open the gate to allow them to roll into PoK. The bus service between Chakan-Da-Bagh and Rawalakote on Monday was also cancelled.

Meanwhile, Pakistan launched a diplomatic campaign against India. The country’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani had meetings with Washington’s envoy to Islamabad, Richard Olson, and diplomats of other European countries and presented the Pakistani version of the incidents.

He later told journalists in Islamabad that the western diplomats had expressed concern over rise of tension between Pakistan and India and were in favour of peaceful resolution of all issues between the two neighbours.

Asked if Pakistan would take up alleged truce violations by India in the United Nations Security Council, Jilani told journalists: “All options are open”.

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