Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Defence Minister will not apologise, says government - NDTV

Defence Minister will not apologise, says government

Army Chief General Bikram Singh (extreme right) pays homage to the five Indian soldiers who were killed at the Line of Control on Tuesday.

New Delhi: Parliament was paralysed today as Opposition members angrily demanded an apology from Defence Minister AK Antony for letting Pakistan off the hook through his statement on the killing of five Indian soldiers in Kashmir.

Amid the swirling controversy he has encoded, Mr Antony met the Prime Minister today. He later told Parliament that his statement on Wednesday was based on "whatever information" he had at the time, and promised to update Parliament after Army Chief General Bikram Singh's Kashmir visit today.

Yesterday, Mr Antony said that 20 heavily armed militants accompanied by "persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms" had ambushed an Army patrol on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch, 200 km south of Srinagar.

The Opposition is stressing that the minister's detailing of the deadly ambush differed from the assessment of the Indian Army, which initially blamed the Pakistani army for the killings.

The government today defended Mr Antony, and said that the Defence Ministry's statement which was later withdrawn was inaccurate.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told NDTV, "Pakistan is exploiting the divide inside our Parliament... whether they (attackers) were the Pakistan Army or terrorists in uniform, the responsibility for the attack is Pakistan's."

In the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition, said, "Our Defence Minister has given a clean chit to Pakistan... he must apologise to the nation."

The uproar that followed forced repeated adjournments in Parliament.

The PM is currently meeting senior BJP leader at his residence; sources in the Congress say he will inform these leaders that despite their urging, he will not alter plans to hold talks next month with the newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The leaders are likely to hold separate talks at the UN General Assembly session in New York next month.

On record, Mr Khurshid said it was too early to say whether the meeting in New York would take place.
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