After border killings, India says it can’t go back to ‘business as usual’ with Pakistan
By Rama Lakshmi,
NEW DELHI — Nine days after a fatal cross-border incident involving Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said ties between the two neighbors cannot be “business as usual” and described the reported beheading of an Indian soldier as “unacceptable.”
Army officials say Pakistani troops crossed the border into Indian territory in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir and killed two Indian soldiers, mutilating the body of one and cutting off the head of the other.
Pakistan has denied the accusation, which was levied by India two days after officials in Islamabad accused Indian soldiers of crossing the same border and killing a Pakistani soldier in an unprovoked attack.
In the wake of the incidents, the Indian government has come under huge political pressure to abandon the fragile talks the nuclear-armed neighbors have warily conducted over the past two years. Indian media are fanning the flames of outrage, even as one news report suggested that India has beheaded Pakistani corpses in the past.
“After this barbaric act, there cannot be business as usual. I hope Pakistan will realize its mistake,” Singh told reporters at a military function Tuesday. “Those responsible for this act will have to be brought to book. The future of the peace process depends on Pakistan taking appropriate steps.”
The mountainous region of Kashmir, over which India and Pakistan have fought two wars, has been relatively calm in the past year. But there have been several tit-for-tat violations of a cease-fire agreement along the border in recent months.
In response, India says it has put on hold a new visa-on-arrival program for elderly Pakistani citizens that was negotiated by the two countries in September as part of confidence-building measures.
In Mumbai on Sunday, during a training session for a coming field hockey tournament, members of the radical Hindu party Shiv Sena protested the inclusion of nine Pakistani players on several Hockey India League teams. As a result, officials announced, the visiting athletes are leaving India.
“Due to an extraordinary situation which has arisen, and to not put any mental stress on the players, Hockey India and Pakistan Hockey Federation have mutually decided that all nine Pakistan hockey players will go back,” said Narinder Batra, the secretary general of Hockey India.
Earlier in the day, Lt. Gen. K.T. Parnaik, the senior Indian military officer in Kashmir, told reporters that Pakistan was in “denial mode” over the cross-border attacks.
Parnaik said a senior-level meeting held Monday to defuse tensions did not go well.
“Even after the brigadier-level flag meeting, there were three cease-fire violations,” he said. “Pakistan still remained adamant, arrogant and not ready to accept anything.”