India toughens stand, Pakistan in denial mode
Mutilating the bodies of two soldiers was "a dastardly and inhuman" act that merited an unequivocal response, the Indian Army told Pakistan in a strongly worded statement in an emotive day of tears at the lives lost and a categorical denial from Islamabad.
As the families of Naib Subedar Paramjeet Singh and BSF Head Constable Prem Singh bid them farewell, Pakistan denied India's allegations of ceasefire violation and mutilation, ensuring that the troubled equation between the two neighbours was back in the national spotlight with cries of a "befitting reply" being heard once again.
India's Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen A K Bhatt spoke to his Pakistani counterpart on Tuesday morning to express his "grave concern" about the killing and beheading of the two soldiers in the Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday.
"The DGMO of the Indian Army conveyed that such a dastardly and inhuman act is beyond any norms of civility and merits unequivocal condemnation and response," the Indian Army said in a statement.
The DGMO conveyed to his Pakistani counterpart that "full fire" support was provided by the Pakistani Army post located close to where the incident took place.
The army said the DGMO also conveyed India's concern about the presence of Border Action Team (BAT) training camps in the close vicinity of the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan- Occupied Kashmir.
Discussing the issue during the hotline contact between the two DGMOs, the Pakistan Army asked India to produce "actionable evidence" on its claim that a Pakistani special forces team had sneaked across the LoC and beheaded the two Indian security personnel.
"Pakistan rejected India's allegations of ceasefire violation and mutilation of bodies of Indian soldiers," the army statement said.
"The Pakistan army is a professional military outfit and upholds the highest standards of conduct. Allegations of mutilation are an Indian attempt to divert the attention of the world from the situation within the Kashmir valley," Pakistan DGMO Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza claimed. The denials had little impact at Vainpoin village in Punjab, where 42-year-old Paramjeet Singh was laid to rest with full military honours.
As buglers sounded the "last post" and his body, wrapped in the tricolour, was brought for cremation, his relatives insisted that they be shown the body. Finally, the ceremony went ahead after civil and army officials intervened.
His wife Paramjit Kaur demanded that the Centre give a "free hand" to the army so that Pakistan is taught a lesson.
"Our government had once said that if Pakistan kills or beheads our one soldier, as many as ten enemy soldiers will meet the same fate, but what is happening now? If the government cannot teach Pakistan a lesson, then they should allow me to take revenge of my husband's killing," she said.
While "shaheed Paramjeet amar rahe" cries echoed in the air so did slogans "Pakistan murdabad".
Pakistani flags were also burnt at some places in Punjab, including at Ludhiana, where protesters demanded that Pakistan should be paid back in the same coin.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which the beheading issue is understood to have figured.
However, there was no official word on it. Former defence minister and senior Congress leader A K Antony echoed the anguish and told reporters that the army should be given a "free hand" to act against those behind the mutilation of the two soldiers.
Paying tribute to the two soldiers at the New Delhi airport, where the body of Prem Sagar was brought before being taken to his home in Uttar Pradesh, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said, "The nation is with the families of the soldiers who lost their lives in ceasefire violation by the Pakistan army." Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu told reporters, "We are very firm, we will do whatever is possible and the government is already at it." More reports on PG5