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Bhatkal: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said it cannot be business as usual in the aftermath of the “barbaric” beheading of an Indian soldier as New Delhi put on hold the visa-on-arrival facility.
The Indian action came amidst rising anger among political parties over the January 8 incident when Pakistani soldiers crossed Line of Control in Mendhar area of Jammu and Kashmir, killing two soldiers and mutilating their bodies.
Breaking his silence on the issue, Dr. Singh justified the decision to suspend visa facility, saying “after this barbaric act, there cannot be business as ususal with Pakistan“.
He said, “Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book” and hoped “Pakistan realises this“.
When pointed out that Pakistan was in a denial mode on the cross-LoC attack, Dr. Singh said, “we will keep trying“.
Asked about options available to the government, he said these could not be discussed in the open.
After his tough talk at the Army Day reception, Dr. Singh met President Pranab Mukherjee and briefed him on the situation.
Earlier in the day, he deputed National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon to brief Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, the Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively.
India was to operationalise the long-delayed visa-on-arrival facility to senior citizens of Pakistan on Tuesday but quietly put it on hold indefinitely. The facility was to be accorded for those above 65 years crossing the Attari-Wagah border by foot.
Government sources said the decision was taken after several agencies sought clarifications on facilities to be offered to the Pakistani citizens.
The visa-on-arrival facility under the new visa agreement between India and Pakistan signed in September 2012 to ease cross-border travel as part of Confidence Building Measures.
No new date has been fixed for operationalisation of the visa-on-arrival facility to the Pakistani senior citizens.
“We will take a decision at an appropriate time,” Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh told PTI.
The simmering border tension also spilled over to the sporting arena with a rattled Hockey India deciding to send back all the nine Pakistani players taking part in its high-profile league.
With an apparent nudge from the government and in the midst of threatened protests by right-wing outfits, Hockey India took the decision to send back the Pakistani players considering the “extra-ordinary circumstances“.
Cricket was also not spared. Fearing trouble due to Pakistani players’ presence in the upcoming Women’s World Cup in the city, the BCCI has left it on the International Cricket Council to take a final call on the venues for the team from across the border.
The matter was discussed at the Board’s Working Committee and it was decided to convey to the ICC the situation prevailing in the country. BCCI president N. Srinivasan said the issue was now for the ICC to decide.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said India has taken a “very firm position” on the beheading issue with Pakistan as the act is “totally unacceptable and barbaric“.
Referring to Monday’s flag meeting between India and Pakistan on the LoC, he said, “We may not be happy with the outcome but the process is still on.”
He indicated that engagement with Pakistan would be impacted although there will be no total freeze.
Asked whether India has set any timeline for Pakistan to act, Mr. Khurshid said, “There is no timeline. But we are actually pressing (Pakistan) very hard.”