Brigadier meeting today on LoC

Srinagar, Jan. 13: The Pakistan army today agreed to India's request for a brigadier-level flag meeting at Chakan da Bagh in Poonch district, reviving hope of de-escalation of tension along the Line of Control.

The defence spokesman at Jammu, Colonel R.K. Palta, said the meeting would be held at 1200 hours on Monday. "Pakistani army has responded to our request for a meeting," he said.

But hours after the meeting was agreed on, fresh firing erupted on the LoC around 4.30pm when Pakistani troops fired at posts in Nangitikri in Poonch and the Indian side retaliated. This followed overnight firing in Krishnagati, also in Poonch. There were no casualties on the Indian side, the army said.

The Indian Army has been pressing its Pakistani counterparts for a brigadier-level meeting for the past several days as tensions mounted after the beheading of one Indian soldier and the mutilation of the body of another soldier. The two were killed on January 8 when Pakistani troops crossed the LoC and ambushed an Indian patrol party.

Army sources said it is routine to hold commander-level talks following ceasefire violations but since a grave situation had arisen this time, a brigadier-level meeting was sought. It is only the second time in two decades that a soldier was beheaded on the LoC and his head taken away by the intruders.

Sources said the Indian Army would lodge a strong protest against the incident. "The issue will be forcefully taken up during the meeting," a source said.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley today criticised the Prime Minister for not issuing a statement on the incident, which he described as an "insult to the country".

Pakistan, which claimed Indian troops had killed one of its soldiers on January 9, has since suspended cross-LoC travel and trade on the Poonch Rawalkote road. Tomorrow's flag meeting has revived hopes that this would be resumed soon.

Indian Army sources said the overnight firing in the Krishnaghati sector of Poonch came even as the troops detected the movement of six to seven persons, suspected to be militants, in the area. It appeared to be aimed at giving the militants cover, but the infiltration bid was foiled, the sources said.