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Army chief talks tough, reserves 'right to retaliate'

The killing of two Indian soldiers — one of whom was beheaded — by Pakistan troops was a ‘gruesome and an unpardonable act’, Army Chief General Bikram Singh said on Monday while asserting that his forces ‘reserve the right to retaliate’.

He also termed Pakistan’s aggression along the LoC (Line of Control) in Jammu and Kashmir ‘pre-planned and pre-meditated’. “What they (Pakistan) have done is against the ethics of soldiering. My heart goes out to the families of soldiers who were killed and whose bodies were mutilated. It’s a gruesome and unpardonable act. Beheading of soldiers is not acceptable,” said Bikram Singh.


Won’t back down: Activists of the Punjab Youth Congress shout slogans against Pakistan during a protest against the death of two Indian soldiers. (Right) Army Chief General Bikram Singh. Pics/AFP

The tough talking army chief also said the Indian Army would uphold the ceasefire as long as it is maintained. “We will uphold the ceasefire as long as it is maintained. We reserve the right to retaliate at the time and place of our choosing. Our response to Pakistani firing at its posts in Line of Control is measured and perfect.”

Appreciating the Indian soldiers, Bikram Singh said: “Commanders on LoC are doing a great job. I expect my commanders on the LoC to be aggressive. They must understand that the army hierarchy is behind them.”

He said if things flare up, other options come in. While Bikram Singh was talking to media, the Indian and Pakistani armies were holding a brigadier level ‘flag meeting’ along LoC at Chakan da Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district. The army chief denied any operation conducted by Indian Army on January 6 as alleged by Pakistan.

“The entire misinformation campaign launched by Pakistan is based on lies. Pakistan has been looking for an opportunity to justify its action. The sequence of events as we have seen by Pakistan is clearly pre-meditated and pre-planned,” hesaid. He said it was possible that Pakistan Army used terrorists in this operation (killing of Indian soldiers) as they had done it in the past.

“The firing from Pakistan is a manifestation of their frustration ...Their troops are not moving forward but we are watching,” he said. He said the ceasefire had been in place since 2003, but aberrations had been taking place mostly in the two areas now being dealt with. “We are enhancing our capabilities at LoC, at human level and technical level so that we are forewarned in future,” he said.

‘Soldier’s head to be brought through diplomatic channels’
The head of Lance Naik Hemraj, who was brutally killed by Pakistani troops, has to be brought through diplomatic channels, Army Chief General Bikram Singh said. Calling it a “gruesome and an unpardonable act”, Bikram Singh said: “With regard to getting the head back, it has to be done through diplomatic channels.”  

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