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Ceasefire violated from Indian side, alleges Pakistan

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD, JAN. 24. Pakistan today alleged that the ceasefire, effective from the last week of November 2003, was violated on January 21 from the Indian side at the Mendhar sector on the Line of Control (LoC).

The Foreign Office spokesman, Masood Khan, surprised journalists by talking about the violation as neither Pakistan nor India has mentioned the incident publicly in the last three days. According to Mr. Khan, there was "small arms fire" from the Indian side between 2.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. "We showed restraint and there has been no loss of property or life."

It was not immediately clear if Pakistan has officially taken up the matter with India. Mr. Khan, however, mentioned that the Directors-General of Military Operations had been making frequent contacts and both sides were committed to the observation of the ceasefire.

Pakistan's charge comes close on the heels of similar charges by India on the violation of the ceasefire on January 18 and 20 from the Pakistani side. Islamabad insisted that there was no violation from its side and that the incidents had originated from the other side.

Mr. Khan argued that since the incidents were on the Indian side, New Delhi should share the results of investigation into the incident. "The violation was on the Indian side and it is their responsibility to share the outcome," he said.

To a question, he termed the ceasefire a "good confidence-building measure" and said it has been holding for 14 months. "We hope the ceasefire will be observed and will have no impact on the forthcoming talks between Prime Ministers Shaukat Aziz and Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of SAARC summit (on February 6 and 7)."

"There was no incident from our side. We have not violated and are strictly adhering to the ceasefire. We will continue to observe the ceasefire and expect India to do the same," Mr. Khan said.

He said a section of the Indian media had sought to link the incidents to the breakdown of talks on Baglihar and said that this was regrettable. However, he disagreed with the suggestion that India was trying to "wriggle out" of the dialogue process by issuing such statements. "India has given assurances that they were serious about resolving all issues that need to be resolved between the two countries," he said.

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