Hina Rabbani Khar's offer talks to defuse the tension came a day after she accused India of "war-mongering." In a statement last night she said, "Instead of issuing belligerent statements by the military and political leaders from across the border and ratcheting up tension, it is advisable for the two countries to discuss all concerns related to the LoC with a view to reinforcing respect for the ceasefire, may be at the level of the foreign ministers."
Sources said that India would find out through diplomatic channels what Pakistan wants to discuss and that though it favours engagement, talks might not happen at the ministerial level at all for now. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made clear to Pakistan that those who mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers killed in Pakistani firing last week, beheading one of them, must be brought to book first. That, sources say, will remain India's focus.
The Union Cabinet meets today and is likely to also discuss Pakistan's offer for talks made late on Wednesday night by Hina Rabbani Khar.
The Directors General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan spoke on a hotline yesterday and agreed on the need to reduce the tension on the LoC. There has been no overnight firing reported from across the border and none this morning so far.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his first direct comments since two Indian soldiers were brutally killed by Pakistani troops last week, said on Tuesday that it "cannot be business as usual" with Islamabad given the current situation. Speaking to NDTV, the Prime Minister said, "Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book" and hoped "Pakistan realises this".
Visa-on-arrival to senior Pakistani citizens at the Wagah-Attari border was put on hold on Tuesday. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, though, said that the process - part of the much-hyped liberalised visa regime between the two nations - has not been "called off", but has just been "deferred".
The tension along the LoC has also hit sporting ties between the two countries. It might result in the postponement of the women's cricket World Cup, scheduled to be held in India from January 31. Sources say the ICC is considering this option after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) requested it to take the tournament out of India due to concerns over the security of Pakistani women's team. Earlier this week, a decision was taken to send back nine Pakistani players who were in India to play in the inaugural Hockey India League tournament.
Tensions between India and Pakistan peaked last week after Pakistani soldiers killed two Indian jawans on January 8. The Indian Army said the Pakistani troops crossed over into Indian territory, ambushed a group of Indian soldiers, killing two - Lance Naik Hemraj Singh and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh; Hemraj Singh's body was beheaded. Since then, both sides have accused each other of violating the ceasefire and killing soldiers in "unprovoked firing." At least five incidents of cease-fire violation were reported since Monday's flag meeting between the two sides.
The Indian Army on Wednesday released photographs of landmines that it says were planted by Pakistani troops in Indian territory. The mines shown in the photographs have markings that say they were made in ordnance factories in Pakistan. But Pakistan has denied charges that it has initiated aggression or entered Indian territory. When the pictures were shown to the Pakistan side during the flag meeting on Monday, it refused to accept them and returned the file to Indian officials, sources in the Defence Ministry say. It has claimed that three of its soldiers have died in what it calls "unprovoked firing" by Indian troops.
India's Army Chief General Bikram Singh has emphatically said that Indian soldiers do not cross over the Pakistani side and have not initiated cross border firing. He said casualties on the Pakistani side, if any, could have happened in retaliatory firing by the Indian side. Sources say India's DGMO had conveyed that Pakistan must stop firing at Indian posts if it wants to check such incidents.