India moots flag meeting to defuse tension

FP

An uneasy calm prevailed on the Line of Control (LoC) Friday, and no new violation of the ceasefire was reported. The Indian Army called for a Brigadier-level flag meeting to resolve the escalation of tensions after Pakistani army regulars brutally killed two Indian soldiers in the Mendhar sector on Wednesday.

In Islamabad, Pakistan summoned the Indian High Commissioner to protest against the killing of a Pakistani army soldier in cross-border firing on Thursday. A total four soldiers, two from each side, have been killed in a series of incidents in the Poonch and Uri areas since Sunday.

Sources said the Indian Army was determined to tackle the issue at the local level. The flag meeting, where the two sides would exchange versions of the recent spate of violence, was a vital step in that direction, they said. Till late on Friday, however, Pakistan had not responded to the Indian proposal.

"The flag meeting has been called as part of the routine procedure to bring back normalcy to the area. We will raise the case and give our version of the recent series of events," a senior Army officer said.

The flag meeting, at which rules of engagement on the LoC — including the convention that no new bunkers and fortifications are to be built within 500 metres of the border — would be emphasised, could bring down tensions if Pakistan accepted the proposal, sources said.

"Generally after a flag meeting at that level, things do calm down, even if temporarily," the officer said.

Last month India put forward new proposals to add to the rules of engagement. It has also asked for an additional sector along the LoC for carrying out flag meetings, and for increasing the number of flag meetings.

Soldiers along the LoC remained on high alert Friday. In Delhi, Defence Minister A K Antony said Wednesday's gruesome killings, in which Pakistani troops carried away the head of an Indian soldier, was a "turning point".

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