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Jan 14, 2013

January 14, 2013 INDIA – India’s army chief held out the threat of retaliating against Pakistan for the killing of two soldiers at the de facto border in Kashmir, saying he had asked his ground commanders to be aggressive in the face of provocation. General Bikram Singh’s strong remarks on Monday, amid mounting public anger at the alleged decapitation of one of the slain soldiers, appeared set to ratchet up tensions further with Pakistan, although analysts said a breakdown in ties was highly unlikely.

Islamabad blames India for the latest crisis in ties. The two nations have fought three wars, two over Kashmir, since independence in 1947 and are now both nuclear-armed. Terming the beheading of the soldier as “gruesome,” Singh told a news conference: “We reserve the right to retaliate at a time and place of our choosing.” Last week’s fighting was the worst outbreak of violence in Kashmir, the Himalayan region both nations claim, since the two sides agreed a ceasefire nine years ago.

Both armies have lost two soldiers each in the fighting along parts of the 740-km (460-mile) ceasefire line this month. The head of one of soldiers was severed, New Delhi said, inflaming tempers in the country and prompting his family to start a hunger strike demanding that the remains be brought back. “The attack on January 8 was premeditated, a pre-planned activity. Such an operation requires planning, detailed reconnaissance,” Singh said. His remarks which came hours before local commanders met at a crossing point on the ceasefire line for the first time since the fighting erupted to try and reduce tensions.

There was no immediate word on what happened at the meeting. Singh said the Indian army would honor the ceasefire in Kashmir, so long as Pakistan did, but would respond immediately to any violation of the truce. “I expect all my commanders at the Line of Control to be both aggressive and offensive in the face of provocation and fire,” he said.

Pakistan has termed the Indian allegations as propaganda and blamed it for violations on the ceasefire line. The ceasefire in Kashmir has held since it went into effect in November 2003, surviving even the downturn in ties after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 by Pakistan-based militant group. Analysts said it was unlikely the two armies would escalate the situation further and that Singh’s remarks may well be addressed both to maintain the morale of his troops as well to respond to public anger over the mutilation of the bodies.

The flare-up began on Jan 6 when Islamabad accused Indian soldiers of entering its territory and killing a soldier. India said Pakistani soldiers intruded about 600 meters (yards) into its territory two days later and killed two Indian soldiers on patrol, the attack the army chief was referring to. Pakistan said one of its soldiers was killed in further fighting on Thursday.

We will retaliate if provoked further, says Army Chief

Vinay Kumar

The Hindu

New Delhi, January 14, 2013

Army chief General Bikram Singh. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Beheading of a soldier is gruesome and most unpardonable’

Terming as “most unpardonable’’ the beheading of an Indian Army soldier on the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch area of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani Army regulars on January 8, Army Chief General Bikram Singh on Monday warned that India’s military will retaliate aggressively if provoked any further.

In a measured but tough response to Pakistani Army killing two Indian soldiers on January 8, the Army Chief said the Pakistani troops had “pre-planned and pre-meditated’’ the action and asserted that India reserves the right to retaliate at a “time and place of its choice.’’

Addressing the annual press conference here on the eve of the 65th Army Day, General Singh said that he expected his commander to be aggressive and offensive. “I do not want my commanders to be timid. Our response to Pakistani firing at its posts in LoC in Jammu and Kashmir is measured and perfect.”

The Army chief said the ceasefire on the LoC, in place since November 26, 2003, has been holding barring “some aberrations’’ in some sectors where the Pakistani side indulged in violations. He pointed out that it was a tactical level operation which was localised on two sectors in LoC, a 740-km long zig-zag line passing through mountainous region of Jammu and Kashmir.

“We will uphold the ceasefire as long as adversary upholds it but we will not be passive when provoked or fired at,’’ he added. Last year there had been 117 ceasefire violations from Pakistani side. However, he said that entire LoC was not “activated’’ but only some sectors where violations, skirmishes and infiltration took place.

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Kumbh Mela: ‘Eight million’ bathers on first day of festival

By Geeta Pandey BBC News, Allahabad

The first day of India’s vast Kumbh Mela festival has ended, with officials estimating that eight million people took to the waters at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.

The bathing was held under tight security with more than 30,000 police deployed at the grounds in Allahabad.

Hindus believe a festival dip at Sangam – where the rivers meet – will cleanse sins and help bring salvation.

The event, every 12 years, is billed as the biggest gathering on Earth.

The Kumbh Mela has its origins in Hindu mythology – many believe that when gods and demons fought over a pitcher of nectar, a few drops fell in the cities of Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar – the four places where the Kumbh festival has been held for centuries.

As the sun set over Allahabad, a few hundred people were still bathing at Sangam and the crowd on the riverfront was thinning rapidly.

Some of the late evening bathers floated small paper or leaf boats with tiny earthen lamps set amidst marigold flowers into the river.

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