Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The contradictions that tripped government after killing of Indian soldiers - NDTV

The contradictions that tripped government after killing of Indian soldiers

Army Chief General Bikram Singh pays homage to the soldiers who were killed at the LoC on Tuesday

New Delhi: The government 's primary challenge today was to asphyxiate the controversy generated by Defence Minister AK Antony, whose statement on the killing of five Indian soldiers in Kashmir conflicted with the army's original account.

Parliament was paralysed today with the opposition demanding an apology from Mr Antony, who had said on Wednesday that the ambush was by "20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistani Army uniforms." (Read: AK Antony's statement in Parliament)

But a statement by his ministry, released about 30 minutes later, squarely blamed "soldiers of Pak Army" along with terrorists. The headline of the statement, issued with inputs from the Northern Command of the army, attributed the killings to Pakistan's  Border Action Team.  It said, "This action is a likely consequence of frustrations of the terrorists' tanzeems (outfits) and Pak Army due to successful elimination of 19 hardcore terrorists in the recent months..." (Read full statement)

Military analysts in India say Pakistan's Border Action unit includes members of Pakistan's commando Special Services Group and the  Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based terror group.

But, in a sign that India's army and government were not on the same page, the ministry later retracted its statement and said Mr Antony's account represented the official record of what had happened on the border.

Here is how the conflicting statements were issued:  

The army's statement was ready by 12 pm on Wednesday.

By 1.30 pm, the Director General of Military Operations Lt General Vinod Bhatia was in Parliament; he reportedly briefed Mr Antony.
At 2 pm, Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner Mansoor Ahmed Khan was summoned by the External Affairs Ministry. He categorically denied any involvement of his country's army in the attack.

At 3.05 pm, Mr Antony read out his statement in parliament and stopped short of indicting the Pakistani Army. (Watch: AK Antony speaks in Parliament)

But about half an hour later, a Public Relations Officer in Jammu for the Ministry of Defence issued the conflicting press release. So apparently, there was a communication gap and the PR Department had not been informed of the changed stand.

At 6:56pm, the ministry said it "regretted" its original statement which should be considered withdrawn. (Read)
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