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Jan 14, 2013 at 06:04pm IST

India, Pakistan trade charges at flag meet as Gen Singh warns of retaliation

New Delhi: There seems to be no end to the frosty relations between India and Pakistan following the skirmishes at the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and the killing of soldiers in the firing from both the sides. While Indian Army protested the beheading of its soldier at a flag meeting of brigade commanders in Poonch and demanded that Pakistan respect the ceasefire, the Pakistan Army claimed that its troops did not kill Indian soldiers, and lodged its counter protest about ceasefire violations even as Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh sent a tough tactical message, saying all commanders at the LoC have been asked to retaliate if provoked by the enemy.

The one-hour meeting was preceded by some tough talk by the Indian Army Chief who described the beheading of an Indian soldier as unacceptable and said he had asked his commanders to strike back if Pakistan continued to violate the ceasefire. The Indian Army team for the flag meeting at Chakan-da-Bagh Crossing Point along the LoC in Poonch district was led by 10th Brigade (Krishnaghati Brigade) Commander Brigadier TS Sandhu.

Earlier, General Singh warned Pakistan against any misadventure along the LoC, saying that all commanders have the full backing of the Army hierarchy and they need to maintain an aggressive stance.

Talking tough against Pakistan, General Bikram Singh rejected Pakistan's claims of an Indian operation at the Line of Control killing one soldier. "No operation was carried out by the Indian Army on January 6 as claimed by Pakistan," General Bikram Singh said.

He called the killing of two Indian soldiers by Pakistan 'gruesome' and 'unpardonable' and said beheading the soldier was unacceptable. "This incident has had strategic nuances, beheading our soldiers is not acceptable. The act was against ethics and principles of rules of engagement," General Singh said. General Singh also said that Pakistan Army's attack in Mendhar was pre-planned.

However, the aggressive press conference by the Army Chief has put the Centre in a tight spot as it is really struggling to come up with a credible response to the allegations that it has been weak-kneed in its response to the killing of two Indian soldiers. Public outrage and political pressure to act against Pakistan is only growing with every passing day and there is a view in government circles that the Army has not been helpful in this regard.

Eyebrows have also been raised about the one-and-a-half hour long press conference by the Indian Army Chief General which was largely devoted to the tensions with Pakistan and questions are being asked in government circles about the way the Army publicly disclosed details of the gruesome killings. The government feels emotions cannot dictate policy responses, particularly as it takes a larger view of ties with Pakistan, in the context of Islamabad's internal dynamics and in the context of the evolving situation in Afghanistan.