Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has called the death of five soldiers at the Line of Control ‘unacceptable’ and ‘extremely distressing’, and said the government was in control of the situation but would carefully consider a host of factors before deciding on an appropriate course of action.
“We are vigilant. We are awake. We are conscious. We are watchful,” Khurshid told CNN-IBN when asked to respond to criticism that the UPA government had fallen asleep at the foreign policy wheel.
The killing of Indian five soldiers along the Line of Control in Poonch by a group of around 20 men comprising both militants and those in Pakistani soldiers uniform created an outrage yesterday, and led to angry scenes in both houses of parliament.
Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had slammed the government in the Lok Sabha, saying it was high time the country responded back to Pakistan in the same manner, calling for a debate in parliament on the issue.
Khurshid said that the rise in the number of incursions along the LoC had not gone unnoticed and reiterated that the government would act in the national interest.
According to him, all the diplomatic processes that can be used in such a situation have been put in motion and Pakistan has been made aware of India’s concerns. The next step, he said, was to wait for Pakistan’s response and then evaluate the situation at that time.
“We have a categorical commitment from Pakistan that they will not allow their territory to be used for attacks on India,” Khurshid said. “We expect them to deliver on this commitment.”
Refusing to be drawn into specifics because of the current session of parliament, the minister completely rejected the opposition’s stand that AK Anthony’s statement in parliament left Pakistan with an escape route.
“He made what was in the circumstances the most prudent and careful and sensible statement based on facts that were available to him at that time,” Khurshid said. If and when new information was gathered, the situation would then be re-evaluated.
He also criticised the BJP for politicising the event by saying the UPA government was weak on national security, calling it irresponsible and saying “there are none so blind as those who will not see”.
As for what counts as the national interest, that would be a combination of perceptions, the government’s analysis of the threats to national security and its strategic imperatives, Khurshid said. And whatever steps the government takes would be based on careful analysis and not a knee-jerk reaction.
He pointed that just because Pakistan and India did not agree on certain issues did not mean that the two countries should treat each other as untouchables. “Neighbours have to find a way of talking to each other,” he said.
He reiterated that the government was taking the situation seriously though it would not be deciding on a course of action in one night.
“We can’t just shut our eyes to it,” Khursheed said. “We can’t proceed as if nothing has happened. We have taken some steps. Let’s see what the response to those
Following Khurshid’s comments, former Indian army chief General VP Malik told CNN-IBN during a panel discussion on the issue that it was unbelievable that Pakistan could have no knowledge of the attack because of the proximity of the two forces in that part of the Line of Control.
“This ambush took place in an area where there are Pakistan and Indian troops facing each other at a distance of 200 or 250 yards,” Malik said.
He also warned that both armies tended to give as good as they got on the Line of Control, which could lead to a limited skirmish or a limited war (as happened in 1999), which is why the Indian government should be prepared for such a situation.
“We need to make it clear we can retaliate,” he said.