5 soldiers killed by Pak troops; Parliament outraged

In an audacious and provocative attack, Pakistani troops entered Indian territory along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir late Monday night and ambushed a patrol killing five Indian soldiers.

The issue rocked Parliament Tuesday with members in both Houses demanding a strong response from the Government. Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned till noon.

Defence sources said the Pakistani soldiers, numbering about 20, intruded into the Indian territory past midnight and ambushed the patrol party at the Sarla post on the Indian side of the LoC.

A subedar and four jawans of the 21 Bihar Unit were killed in the attack that took place at around 2 am, the sources said.

The attack took place 450 metres from the LoC on the Indian side, they said.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “(I) was briefed early this morning about the news that five of our soldiers had been killed on the LoC. My heartfelt condolences to their next of kin. These incidents don’t help efforts to normalise or even improve relations with Pak and call in to question the Pak Govt’s recent overtures,” Omar said.

Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh is taking stock of the situation, Army sources said in Delhi.

The incident could cast a shadow on the resumption of the Indo-Pak dialogue process. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif are slated to meet in New York next month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

The dialogue process was put on hold following the beheading of an Indian soldier and another soldier’s body found mutilated following the January 8 attack by Pakistani troops in the Poonch sector.

Union minister Farooq Abdullah said the incident would affect the process of normalisation between India and Pakistan.

“The hand of friendship cannot be extended from one side only. Pakistan has to stop the killings of Indian soldiers. The dialogue process cannot resume if such a situation continues,” Abdullah said.

The Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley said the incident has serious defence, security and foreign policy implications.

BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said Government should come out with a clear-cut and firm response to the latest Pakistani attack that has become a weekly affair.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi accused the Government of laxity in securing Indian borders.

Gurudas Dasgupta of CPI said Government should take up the issue strongly with Pakistan.

Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla said defence minister A.K. Antony will make a statement in Parliament on the issue.

Former Army Chief Shankar Roy Choudhary said India should be wary of any peace overtures of Pakistan.

“This is a serious situation and requires a strong response from the Government,” said former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.

The incident comes hours after a Border Security Force (BSF) jawan was injured in firing from across Indo-Pak border in Samba district of J&K.

On July 27, another BSF jawan was injured when Pakistani troops violated ceasefire twice in the space of 10 hours by targeting Indian posts along the Indo-Pak border in Poonch and Kathua districts.

The Pakistani troops had used mortars, RPGs and heavy machine guns leading to heavy firing exchanges.

On July 3, Pakistan violated ceasefire when it fired on cops, who had gone to LoC in Sabzian, Poonch to collect the body of a Pakistani intruder killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast on July 1.

Pakistani troops fired on Indian troops who were trying to evacuate injured porters after two were killed in IED attack by Pakistani militants along LoC in Poonch on July 8.

On July 12, Pakistani Rangers fired on Indian forward posts in Pindi belt along International Border (IB) in Jammu district.

Pakistani troops opened small arms firing on Indian posts in forward area along LoC in Poonch district on the night of July 22.

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