India hardened its stand against Pakistan on Tuesday, saying it cannot be ‘business as usual’ in the aftermath of the beheading of an Indian soldier on the Line of Control last week.

First, the Government suspended ‘Visa on Arrival’ for senior Pakistani citizens. This was followed by sending home nine Pakistani players, who were here for the Hockey League.

But the strongest words came from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Breaking his silence after the January 8 incident on the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir in which two soldiers were killed and their bodies mutilated, the Prime Ministersaid: “After this barbaric act, there cannot be business as usual (with Pakistan).” He also said that those responsible for the ‘barbaric act’ of beheading Lance Naik Hemraj would have to be brought to book and hoped “Pakistan realises this”.

Singh was responding to reporters’ questions here at the Army Day reception hosted by Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh. When pointed out that Pakistan was in denial mode on the cross-LoC attack, the Prime Minister said, “We will keep trying.”

However, the Government is not willing to talk about the possible action vis-à-vis Pakistan. If Singh said that said these cannot be discussed in public, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, declining to get into specifics on how it will not be ‘business as usual’ with Pakistan, said: “I suggest we leave it at this point. Specifics of what might be necessary or found useful are decisions that will be taken as we move forward. At present, we feel it is important that a convergent single point of view goes on behalf of the Government.”

Khurshid said it should not be felt that the brazen denial and the lack of a proper response from the Government of Pakistan to our repeated demarches on this incident will be ignored and that bilateral relations could be unaffected or that there will be ‘business as usual’. “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,” he added.

Earlier, the Government decided to keep visa-on-arrival facility for senior Pakistani citizens in abeyance. This facility was scheduled to start on Tuesday at the Attari-Wagah border in Punjab. Confirming this, a senior Government official said, “Some agencies have asked for a rethink on whether it is necessary for senior citizens to have a sponsor in India.”

Shishir.Sinha@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 15, 2013)
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