Paris: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid spoke exclusively to NDTV on the "mutilation" of the bodies of the two jawans who were killed by Pakistani troops near the Line of Control on Tuesday. One of the two soldiers was beheaded. "It is unacceptable and must be explained," the minister said.
Mr Khurshid also talked about the ceasefire violations across the Line of Control and Pakistan's decision to partially suspend the cross-border trade.
Here's the full excerpt of the interview:
Q: You said that the mutilation of our soldier's bodies was barbaric... things have deteriorated quickly. There are reports that Pakistan has opened fire on several Indian posts. Before you came away to France you told NDTV that you were going to gather information and assess the situation. What can you tell us now?
A: On the core issue, which is the stress which has been caused to the country by the treatment meted out to the bodies of two of our brave soldiers, we haven't had any response that would be of some substance sadly. We are still awaiting a response. As far as the issue of the violation of the ceasefire is concerned, obviously it's a matter of concern and this is something we have flagged and conveyed our concern to them. We have arrangements in place that can handle this matter. If required it can be handled at the level of foreign ministry. But the major concern is about the treatment of our soldiers.
Q: You said we shouldn't allow the situation to escalate. But back home, it seems things have already escalated quite a bit, perhaps worse than they've ever been since 2003. Would you agree?
A: Hopefully, this will pass and it must pass. It's important that we do not allow anyone to play up to the media. Both sides have very active media and it's important that the public face must remain restrained.
Q: There were some reports that an elderly lady crossed over to the Indian side and that led to us building bunkers. It seems that's the core of the problem...
A: If there is an element of truth in this, it's something that can be verified easily in the commanders' meeting. This is something that could have been discussed and sorted out. This is not something that requires the matter to have been taken to an extent that it has been taken to. And certainly as far as we're concerned, on our side of the LoC we would comply and do whatever's necessary. We don't see why this could have been sorted out within the parameters that exist, that's the reason we have those arrangements.
Q: Sometimes on the ground what happens does contradict our official stated positions. Is it possible that any of these events could have happened without the approval of higher authorities?
A: Violation of ceasefires is one thing but doing something specifically like building bunkers, you just can't do it on your own. It requires approval; it requires material, participation of labour.
Q: So you're saying it's unlikely that it could have happened?
A: I am saying we have no reason to believe that this is what happened. So if there is a media report it is difficult for me to accept that it is authentic even if for the sake of argument one were to accept should necessarily lead to what happened. This doesn't explain the mutilation of two soldiers' bodies. Why would anybody do that? What purpose does it serve? These are questions that need to be answered.
Q: One version is that someone in Pakistan wants to derail the peace process. The other thing we're also hearing that perhaps the Indian side is not telling the full story. Pakistan has summoned the Indian envoy twice in less than a week, LoC trade is impacted, the bus service from Pooch is suspended, Pakistan has complained to the UN and hasn't been quick in responding to our request for Brigadier-level talks. Is there something that has set them off?
A: As far as some steps that have been taken is concerned, such as suspension of border trade and bus service...that has happened only at one point and if it's been done because there was an assessment on their side that conditions were not conducive to letting that continue, it's for them to have taken that decision. Fortunately, that's not happened completely and everywhere and in many places the service continues. At the Wagah Border for instance, land border crossing continues, trade at various other points continues and we'd want that to be so. But I don' think one should get distracted from the main issue. The main issue is, even if there is disagreement about violations of the ceasefire, there should not be any disagreement in the manner in which our soldiers and their bodies were treated. That is the bottom line. That is unacceptable and that must be explained.
Q: On the ground there's anger. People have been affected. How long do you think it could take before more clarity emerges?
A: Well you know we talk often in our society about anger management and I think it needs to be done. It's important. There's a much larger situation... the situation demands very responsible and sensible and moderate behaviour. We're not going to be pressurised by wild calls for revenge and reaction. We will do what is in the best interest of the country and peace, keeping in mind that there is a lot at stake. And we hope there will be a similar approach from the other side. But we shouldn't really be lulled into believing that nothing went wrong.
Q: You're saying this is will taper off quickly?
A: We hope we'll both have the ability to contain and control while we continue to look at how we resolve the fundamental issue.
Story first published:
January 12, 2013 11:56 IST