PM says can’t be business as usual with Pakistan after ‘barbaric act’

FP

Taking a tough position on the tension that has flared on the Line of Control after an Indian soldier was beheaded, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday warned Pakistan that it cannot be "business as usual" between the neighbours following the incident and those responsible must be brought to book.

In simultaneous steps that underlined the chill creeping into India's relations with Pakistan, New Delhi suspended a decision to give visas on arrival to senior Pakistani citizens and India's hockey and cricket authorities moved to prevent Pakistani players from playing in India.

"After this barbaric act, there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan," Singh said in his first remarks on the killing last week of two Indian soldiers and the beheading of one of them.

The hard line adopted by India, sources indicated, follows inputs that emotions have been running high among the lower ranks of the Army, especially in the area where the killings took place.

The government line also hopes to pacify soldiers on the Line of Control who have been most affected by the incident. Sources said that some troops of the 13 Rajputana Rifles regiment, to which the two dead soldiers belonged, refused to eat after learning that the family of Lance Naik Hemraj has been fasting and demanding the return of his head. There were also demands for permission to bring back the head of the soldier.

To ensure that emotions do not rise further, local commanders, especially at the affected brigade, have been told to counsel troops who have seen the incident remain in the national spotlight for days on TV sets in their barracks.

Singh's comments came hours after New Delhi put on hold its decision to give visas on arrival to senior citizens from Pakistan, with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid admitting that this was due to the impact of the LoC incident. However, he said the move has only been delayed and not called off.

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