Tensions rise as India claims Pakistani troops beheaded its soldier

Pakistan denies mutilation during latest skirmish on Kashmir border as its envoy in Delhi is summoned for ‘angry rebuke’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 4:02am


India berated Islamabad's envoy to Delhi yesterday over the alleged beheading by Pakistan's army of one of two soldiers killed in Kashmir, as both sides warned against inflaming tensions.

While Pakistan insisted that no such incident had taken place and suggested a UN inquiry be held, India denounced the "inhuman" treatment of its soldiers, who were killed two days after a Pakistani soldier was slain in Kashmir.

As the Indian government pondered its response, the country's Foreign Minister, Salman Khurshid, struck a note of caution and warned against any further moves that would inflame tensions with Pakistan, its northwestern neighbour.

Khurshid said Pakistan's ambassador, Salman Bashir, had been "spoken to in very strong terms" after he was summoned for an angry rebuke over the killings.

But in a subsequent press conference, Khurshid said that "whatever has happened, should not be escalated".

"We cannot and must not allow for an escalation of a very unwholesome event that has taken place," he said.

The two Indian soldiers died after a firefight erupted in the disputed territory of Kashmir on Tuesday. The Indian army said a patrol moving in fog discovered Pakistani troops about 500 metres inside Indian territory.

An army spokesman said: "We can confirm that one of the Indian soldiers was beheaded by the Pakistani army in Kashmir. It was a dastardly act, as they have taken away the head."

India's defence minister, A.K. Antony, said the Pakistan army was guilty of "inhuman" behaviour in the treatment of the bodies, while newspaper headlines stoked the tensions, with the Mail Today denouncing "Pak Army Butchers".

But amid the chorus of condemnation, Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, appeared on Indian television to firmly deny that the beheading had happened and to criticise the statements by authorities in Delhi.

"Let me just say that we are a bit appalled at some statements that are coming in from India because the government of Pakistan has absolutely rejected that any such incident took place," she said.

Khar said Islamabad had tempered its language after the death of one of its soldiers on Sunday in a cross-border skirmish, and the Indian side should have followed suit.

"It is not Pakistan's policy to do tit-for-tat. We are a responsible country, mature country, we must not all go back to having a go at each other," she said.

Khurshid has suggested the attack was designed to "derail" an already fragile peace process between the two countries, which have fought three wars since independence in 1947.

Relations between political leaders of both countries had been slowly improving after a rupture after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008, which India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

Army sources said the de facto border between Indian and Pakistani-controlled territory was calm yesterday.