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Khar offers talks with India to defuse tension


First published: January 17, 2013, 1:46 AM IST | Updated: January 17, 2013
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Khar offers talks with India to defuse tension
Pakistan has also asked its troops to maintain ceasefire strictly and exercise restraint at the Line of Control (LoC).

New Delhi/Islamabad: As India and Pakistan agreed to deescalate the situation along the border, Islamabad on Wednesday night offered to hold talks with New Delhi to address concerns related to the LoC and to reinforce a nine-year-old ceasefire, saying any increase in tensions would be counter-productive.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who had earlier accused India of engaging in war-mongering, offered to have talks with her Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid to address concerns related to the Line of Control and to reinforce the ceasefire that had been in operation since 2003.

"Instead of issuing belligerent statements by the military and political leaders from across the border and ratcheting up tension, it is advisable for the two countries to discuss all concerns related to the LoC with a view to reinforcing respect for the ceasefire, may be at the level of the Foreign Ministers, to sort out things," Khar said.

"Rhetoric and ratcheting up of tensions is certainly counter-productive," she said in a statement.

Khar said Pakistan and India were important countries of South Asia and it was "imperative that they demonstrate requisite responsibility for ensuring peace by addressing all concerns through dialogue".

Earlier in the day, Pakistan asked its troops to maintain ceasefire strictly and exercise restraint at the Line of Control (LoC), even as the Indian Army denied crossing the LoC, claiming that Pakistani soldier might have been killed in retaliatory fire from our side.

In a meeting of the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries, the Pakistani DGMO confirmed that orders had been passed to troops to observe ceasefire and exercise restraint at the LoC. Also, the DGMOs of the two countries agreed not to allow situation to escalate.

This came hours after Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh rejected Pakistan's allegations that the Indian Army violated ceasefire and killed a Pakistani soldier. "Pakistan is wrong in alleging that their soldier has died in firing at the Line of Control. If their soldier has died, he must have died in retaliatory fire. Our soldiers do not cross the LoC. In a ceasefire violation, we fire when they fire," General Singh said.

The Pakistani army had claimed that Indian troops killed a Pakistani soldier in Kashmir. The soldier was killed at a position called Kundi during firing from the Indian side that began at 10 pm, Pakistan's army said in a statement.

Meanwhile, sources said that Indo-Pakistan Trade Ministers' meet had been ruled out. Pakistan Commerce Minister was earlier invited to attend the Global Business Meet in Agra on January 27. However, sources said that as a fallout of the ceasefire violations at the LoC and the tension between the two countries, the Pakistan Trade Minister was unlikely to attend the meet. According to sources, the prevailing situation was not conducive for trade talks.

Amidst these developments, terming the mutilation and beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani troops as horrific, Union Commerce and Industries Minister Anand Sharma said that the actions of Pakistan were unacceptable and highly provocative. He further said, "This is for Pakistan to realise where the well-being of the economies of the countries lies."

Pointing that the current environment between the two countries was not favourable for enhancing economic ties, the Union Minister said, "Economic engagement can be enhanced in an environment of peace and stability. And anything which undermines that environment is not conducive."

A string of violations of the ceasefire along the 742-km LoC over the past 10 days have left two Indian and three Pakistani soldiers dead.

With Additional Inputs From PTI