New Delhi: There seems to be a divide within the government on Defence Minister AK Antony's statement in Parliament on the Poonch LoC killings of five Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops. The Ministry of Defence sources have told CNN-IBN that Antony's statement was vetted by the PMO and changed to suit Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in September.
But a PMO spokesperson told news agency PTI that the allegations are mischievous and have no basis. Meanwhile, MoD sources have said that Antony's statement was vetted by several senior officials including the National Security Advisor, the DGMO and some Defence Ministry officers.
The Defence Minister is expected to make a new statement in Parliament on Thursday after being briefed by Army Chief General Bikram Singh. Sources say the government could also clarify that it does not rule a Pakistani Army hand, while the Congress is unhappy with the hurried manner in which the statement was given.
The killing of five Indian soldiers on the LoC disrupted Parliament for the second day on Wednesday with the BJP targetting Antony for almost providing an alibi to Islamabad and differing with the Army on Pakistan's role in the attack. The government, in turn, accused the Opposition of playing politics.
A united opposition launched a multi-pronged attack on the government on Wednesday. NDA Parliamentary Party chief LK Advani, who demanded an apology from Antony, led a party delegation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and made it clear that they will not relent on their position when Parliament meets on Thursday.
The BJP leaders, who included party chief Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, also told the Prime Minister that he should not meet his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York in September in the current situation.
At the heart of the controversy are the two statements - one by the Defence Minister, where he blamed it on approximately 20 heavily-armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms, the ambiguity on the role of the Pakistan Army was apparent.
Almost simultaneously, the Army in its press release blamed heavily-armed terrorists along with regulars of the Pakistan Army. With the matter heating up soon after, as the discrepancy was pointed out, the Army retracted and revised its version to fall in line with Antony's statement. The Congress, though, stood by the Defence Minister, accusing BJP of politicising the issue.
Bodies of martyrs reach home
Meanwhile, the bodies of four jawans from Bihar who were killed in an ambush by Pakistani soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir reached on Wednesday. Bodies of Vijay Rai of Bihta in rural Patna, Shambhu Saran Singh (Bhojpur), Premnath Singh (Chhapra) and Raghunandan (Chhapra) were brought here in an Air Force special plane.
Danapur regiment commandant AK Yadav and his deputy Asif Hussain were at the Jaiprakash Narayan Airport to receive bodies of the martyrs which reached here at about 10 pm. Besides, senior officials of Danapur regiment, Bihar government and a number of politicians like Sushil Kumar Modi (BJP) and Bhai Birendra (RJD) were present at the airport.
(With additional information from PTI)