Impending war

NEW DELHI — India for the first time directly accused the Pakistan army of involvement in an ambush that killed five Indian soldiers, and hinted today at retaliation for possibly the worst such attack since the neighbours signed a ceasefire in 2003.

“This incident will have consequences on our behaviour on the Line of Control and for our relations with Pakistan,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony told parliament today, referring to the de facto border dividing the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

“It is now clear that specialist troops of Pakistan army were involved in this attack,” Antony said, offering the Indian government’s strongest statement to date on the attack.

Six soldiers on patrol near their base about 450 metres from the Line of Control were ambushed in the early hours of Tuesday. Five were shot dead and one was wounded, army officials said.

While tit-for-tat shelling and machinegun fire is common along the disputed border, cross-border attacks by troops are rare.

Pakistan has strongly denied any involvement in the killing of the five Indian soldiers and has said it is committed to the ceasefire agreement. Pakistani military spokesmen were not immediately available for comment on the latest Indian statement.

Today, a Pakistani civilian was wounded in cross-border firing in Kashmir, the Pakistani military said, accusing Indian forces of “unprovoked” shooting. There was no immediate comment from the Indian military.

Antony’s accusation was significant as in his first comments on the incident, on Tuesday, he had been careful not to directly implicate the Pakistani army and had referred instead to militants accompanied by “persons dressed in Pakistan army uniforms”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been quietly working with Islamabad to relaunch stalled peace talks, possibly as early as this month. Islamabad has also been pushing for a meeting between Singh and his new Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, in New York in September, a proposal New Delhi has said it is considering.

Indian government officials said today no decision had been taken on resuming the peace talks at a senior bureaucrat level or on the proposed meeting between the two prime ministers. (Reuters)

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