New Delhi, Aug 9: Under sustained attack from the Opposition over his statement on the killing of five soldiers in Poonch sector, Defence Minister A K Antony today retracted from it and squarely blamed the Pakistan Army for the “brutal” act.
He also warned that the Tuesday incident will have “consequences” on India's behaviour on the Line of Control and on relations with Pakistan.
“It is now clear that the specialist troops of Pakistan Army were involved in this attack when a group from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) side crossed the LoC and killed our brave jawans,” he said in the statement aimed at controlling the damage by his Tuesday's version.
The fresh statement by Defence Minister A K Antony in the Lok Sabha, amending his earlier controversial version, ensured peace with the main Opposition which expressed happiness that he has “accepted his mistake” and rectified it.
Antony, who faced opposition fury, especially the BJP, for the last two days, asserted that nobody should doubt the government's resolve to uphold the sanctity of the LoC as also the capacity of armed forces and India's restraint should not be taken for granted.
He maintained that his statement on Tuesday about the involvement of “terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniform” in the killing of five soldiers on LoC in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir was based on information available at that time.
Since then the Chief of Army Staff has visited the area and gone into the details of the matter, he said.
“We all know that nothing happens from Pakistan side of LoC without support, assistance, facilitation and often, direct involvement of Pakistan Army,” Antony said.
He also said “naturally, this incident will have consequences on our beha viour on the LoC and for our relations with Pakistan”.
“Our restraint should not be taken for granted; nor should the capacity of our Armed Forces and resolve of the government to uphold the sanctity of the LoC ever be doubted,” the Minister said.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, immediately welcomed the revised statement, expressing happiness that the Defence Minister has “accepted his mistake” and rectified it.
“The Opposition supports your statement and we have been successful in saying in one voice that Pakistan cannot resort to such acts,” she said, telling the government that it should ensure that such a mistake is not repeated.
BJP had been targeting Antony alleging that he had given a clean chit to Pakistan Army and should apologise. It paralysed Parliament for the last two days.
Adopting a tough stance, Antony said the “brutal and unprovoked” attack on Indian side of the LoC in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir “outraged us all”.
Sending out a message to Pakistan, he said, “Our restraint should not be taken for granted; nor should the capacity of our armed forces and resolve of the Government to uphold the sanctity of LoC ever be doubted.”
“Those in Pakistan who are responsible for this tragedy and the brutal killing of two soldiers earlier this year should not go unpunished.
“Pakistan should also show determined action to dismantle terrorists networks, organisations and infrastructure and show tangible movement on bringing those responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attack in November 2008 to justice quickly,” the
Referring to his statement on Tuesday which created a huge political storm, he said, “When I reported the incident to the House, it was Government's obligation to report the facts as we knew them at that point of time, and my statement was based on the available information.”
Soon after the new statement, Swaraj said, “We are happy that the Defence Minister has accepted his mistake and tried to rectify it...He has said the Pakistan army was involved and that our restraint should not be taken for granted.”
Taking on Congress, Swaraj suggested that those who had accused BJP of playing politics over the killing of the five soldiers were wrong. They should know that her party was trying to get corrected the Defence Minister's statement made on Tuesday, she said.
Swaraj said the Opposition wanted to express the commitment of the nation on the issue and send a message to Pakistan that it cannot commit such acts again.
Antony acknowledged her remarks with folded hands.
While Swaraj signalled that the issue was over for BJP, NDA ally Shiv Sena expressed dissatisfaction with Antony's statement. Sena leader Anant Geete said India cannot hold talks with Pakistan in such a situation.
Antony was to make the same statement in the Rajya Sabha also. However, soon after he started reading the statement amid din, the House was adjourned by Deputy Chairman P J Kurien in view of the uproar.
Later in the Rajya Sabha, Deputy Chairman Kurien refused permission to Najma Heptulla and Thawar Chand Gehlot (both BJP) to seek on the ground the minister could not complete his statement nor had he allowed him to table it.
At this, Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi sought to know the status of the Defence Minister's statement saying he had started reading his statement in the pre-lunch session and it should be on record.
“The Minister only read two or three sentences. I have not allowed him to lay it on the table,” Kurien said, adding that Antony would have to make the statement again for the opposition to seek clarifications from him.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla then said, “We will again request Defence Minister to clarify...On Monday he will make the statement in the House again.”