New York/New Delhi:
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said that her country is committed to getting relations with India back to normal, and that the two neighbours cannot afford a setback to the progress made to improving ties over the past year.
Her comments in New York came even as the Indian Army reported five ceasefire violations by Pakistan since the flag meeting between senior military officers of the two countries on Monday afternoon. Calling for an end to hostilities, Ms Khar spoke after Pakistan claimed that a soldier had been killed in what it called "unprovoked firing" by Indian troops in Kashmir.
"We see warmongering," Ms Khar said at the Asia Society in New York, adding, "It is deeply disturbing to hear statements that are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement." She said that recent incidents along the Line of Control (LoC) have been "blown out of proportion" by India.
Ms Khar also said, "The doors to dialogue are open," and added, "We need to meet at any level, I think we need to call each other, we need to become mature countries, which know how to handle their issues." Responding to India's decision to put visas on arrival for senior Pakistani citizens on hold, Ms Khar said, "Existing relaxed visa regime... they are going back on it (sic)."
The minister denied that Pakistani forces had beheaded one of two soldiers killed in Pakistani firing in Kashmir on January 8. She claimed that an inquiry had found "no evidence" of the deaths. She said neither country could "afford conflict."
Yesterday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh used tough words to make clear that there could be no "business as usual" with Pakistan given its repeated ceasefire violations and the "dastardly act" of Pakistani troops beheading an Indian soldier. He put the ball in Pakistan's court, saying, "Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book" and hoped "Pakistan realises this".
India has rubbished Pakistan's claim that its troops have violated the ceasefire or transgressed into Pakistani territory. The Indian Army has said Pakistan has repeatedly resorted to unprovoked cross-border firing, five times since Monday's flag meeting and twice within an hour yesterday evening.
India has also expressed deep dissatisfaction with the outcome of the brigadier-level flag meeting and Pakistan's response. External Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed said yesterday, "Such actions by the Pakistan army, which are in contravention of all norms of international conduct, not only constitute a grave provocation but lead us to draw appropriate conclusions about Pakistan's seriousness in pursuing normalisation of relations with India."
Mrs Khar, however, said, "There has been a transformation in Pakistan. This government has created the space in the public arena to have a positive dialogue with India."