Release of Indian soldier from Pakistan will take days, says minister

Indian villagers sitting inside a vehicle as they are evacuated from their village near the border with Pakistan. Tensions between the two states have risen rapidly, with Pakistan reacting furiously to Indian military raids that were carried out in r
Indian villagers sitting inside a vehicle as they are evacuated from their village near the border with Pakistan. Tensions between the two states have risen rapidly, with Pakistan reacting furiously to Indian military raids that were carried out in response to an alleged Pakistani strike on an Indian army base.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI • India is working to secure the release of a soldier held in Pakistan but it will take "some days", Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said yesterday, following a dramatic spike in tensions between the archrivals.

India said the soldier was captured on Thursday after he "inadvertently" crossed over into the Pakistani side of the de facto border that divides Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Mr Parrikar said that the capture did not relate to the Indian military's strikes on militants that sources said on Thursday occurred several kilometres inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

"He had crossed over, which happens in border areas. There is a well-established mechanism through the Director General of Military Operations which has been activated," he said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

"Since the situation is tense right now, it will take some days to bring the soldier back."

India has evacuated thousands of people near the Pakistani border in Punjab state following the military raids on militant posts, which provoked furious charges of "naked aggression" from Pakistan.

The move followed a deadly assault on one of India's army bases in Kashmir that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants, triggering a public outcry and demands for military action.

Pakistan has flatly denied the claim and took the rare step of flying international media on Saturday to the Line of Control (LOC) dividing Kashmir to make its case.

Pakistani military officials pointed to an Indian army post high on a forested ridge along the de facto border, insisting any incursions were impossible.

"You can see the way the fortifications are built and the way Pakistan has layers of defence and they have layers of defence... the LOC cannot be violated," said Pakistan's army spokesman Lieutenant-General Asim Bajwa. He was speaking from a command post overlooking the lush green Bandala Valley, with Pakistani and Indian fortifications visible on the opposite hill.

Indian and Pakistani troops regularly exchange fire across the disputed border in Kashmir, but sending ground troops over the LOC is rare.

On Saturday, Mr Parrikar likened Pakistan to a patient under the influence of anaesthesia, amid an increase in derogatory comments between the two sides.

"It is just like anaesthesia. When anaesthesia is given, you don't realise the surgery is over. It's been two days and Pakistan has still no idea what has happened," he said.

The two countries, separated at the end of British colonial rule in 1947, have fought three wars in the last seven decades - including two over Kashmir.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has offered to mediate in the dispute as the international community urged restraint.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Release of Indian soldier from Pakistan will take days, says minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe