India lodged a “strong protest” with Pakistan after Pakistani troops shot dead and beheaded two of its soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir in a gory replay of the 1999 Kargil killings.
The Army said the head of one of the soldiers, Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh, was taken away by the intruders who officials said could be from the 29 Baloch Regiment.
The other dead soldier was identified as Lance Naik Hemraj. In a strongly worded statement, India said the two “were killed ... and their bodies subjected to barbaric and inhuman mutilation”.
New Delhi asked Islamabad to immediately probe the killings, which it said violated “all norms of international conduct”. It was the worst violation of the ceasefire that has mostly held since 2003 on the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Indian leaders made no efforts to hide their disgust. Defence Minister AK Antony called the Tuesday killings in the border district of Poonch “highly provocative. The way they have treated the body of the Indian soldiers, it is inhuman”.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the mutilation of the soldiers was “an extremely sensitive matter”. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai summoned Pakistani High Commissioner Salman Bashir and lodged a strong protest. Bashir was “spoken to in very strong terms”, Khurshid said.
The matter was also taken up by the Director General of Military Operations, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, with his Pakistani counterpart, Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem. They spoke on their hotline. The Tuesday killings appeared to be a repeat of the killings and torture of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani military during the Kargil conflict in Kashmir almost 14 years ago.
Pakistan denied its involvement in the latest killings but India refused to buy the argument. “Our troops did not carry out the attack. Indians are making counter claims to cover their attack on a Pakistani post (Jan 6),” a Pakistani official said in Islamabad.
The Congress party warned Pakistan not to test India’s patience. “The way they have beheaded our soldiers is brutal and barbaric,” its spokesman Rashid Alvi said. “We want good relationship with our neighbour, but whether Pakistan wants peaceful relationship is doubtful.”