Civilian deaths and ‘spy drone’ put chill back in India-Pakistan tie

NEW DELHI (TIP): Amid heightened tension along their border resulting in casualties on both sides, India on July 16 warned Pakistan of “effective and forceful” response to unprovoked firing and cross-border terrorism.

India’s blunt message followed a series of ceasefire violations along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan which resorted to mortar shelling of Indian areas over the past two days. India responded in kind and both sides said they had suffered casualties.

Pakistan on july 16 accused Indian troops of killing five civilians along the Line of Control.

“Five Pakistani civilians were killed due to Indian unprovoked firing, the Pakistani military said in statements on the clashes along the international border.

The escalating hostilities have chilled a brief thaw in ties after Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi met in Russia, but appeared unlikely to thwart a planned meeting of national security advisers.

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“We remain committed to steps that contribute to peace and tranquility on the border,” Indian foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said after a meeting of top ministers in New Delhi on Thursday.

“However, there should be no doubt that any unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side would meet with an effective and forceful response from our forces,” Jaishankar said.

Hopes for warmer ties were raised last week when Modi and Sharif met on the sidelines of a summit in Ufa, Russia and agreed that their national security advisers would hold talks.

Modi also agreed to visit Pakistan in 2016.

On Wednesday, the Pakistani military said it had shot down an Indian surveillance drone. A photograph released by the military appeared to show a small, unarmed model.

The Indians denied the drone was theirs, with Jaishankar saying it appeared to be “commercially available” Chinese design.

“It appears to be a Chinese design which is available off the shelf,” the foreign secretary said.

Jaishankar also countered Pakistan government’s charge over Heli manoeuvres by India near LoC on July 11, 2015 as an “offensive and threatening posture”.

“In so far as the allegation of the helicopter manoeuvres is concerned, this has already been taken up and settled through an exchange of hotline messages between local formation commanders at Teetwal on July 12-13.

“The helicopter flight was in connection with the counter-terrorism operation in which three terrorists were neutralised. The Pakistani side raised the issue of our helicopter flight and we had clarified that it was well within the mutually accepted distances from the LoC in India. That the Pakistani government four days later is raising a controversy on a settled issue speaks for itself,” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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