New Delhi: Twin militant attacks in Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, in which 10 people were killed, have cast a pall on the first proposed face-to-face talks between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan in New York with domestic pressure mounting on Manmohan Singh to cancel the talks.

Leaders of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, slammed Singh for his plan to meet Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif on a day militants dressed in Indian army uniforms attacked a police station and an army base in disputed Kashmir.

Singh and Sharif are to meet on Sunday to re-energise a peace process almost stalled after the killings of Indian troops along the border in Kashmir in January and in August.

In the first attack on Thursday, three militants believed to be from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group, attacked a police station in the morning, about 10 km from the Pakistan border. They then hijacked a truck and raided an army camp near the town of Samba, killing several army personnel including an officer. The militants were later killed in a gunbattle.

In New Delhi, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde pointed a finger at Pakistan in comments to reporters saying that “as per preliminary information, the terrorists came from across the border" -- a euphemism for Pakistan.

In a statement, the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi expressed sympathy for the families of those killed. “Terrorism is a pernicious evil. Pakistan has been its foremost victim. We are committed to leaving no stone unturned to eliminate the specter of terrorist violence from our society and our region," it said.

Stating that Pakistan “strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," the high commission said it was “imperative that senseless acts of violence do not deter us from pursuing a path to a better future for our peoples" — a possible reference to the slow-moving peace process that Singh and Sharif are expected to kickstart in New York.

Singh, who was en route to New York, condemned the attacks but indicated it would not derail his plan to meet Sharif. “This is one more in a series of provocations and barbaric actions by the enemies of peace. We are firmly resolved to combat and defeat the terrorist menace that continues to receive encouragement and reinforcement from across the border. Such attacks will not deter us and will not succeed in derailing our efforts to find a resolution to all problems through a process of dialogue," Singh said.

At home, the BJP’s Narendra Modi at a public rally in Trichy sought an explanation from Singh on his proposed meeting with Sharif. “I want to ask you and I want you to answer, our soldiers are killed, innocents are killed, terrorism troubles us—should the prime minister hurry to meet the Pakistan prime minister? The prime minister is in US, the country wants to know—is national pride important or you want to hurry for talks with Pakistan because you are under international pressure? What is your priority?" Modi said.

Party colleague Sushma Swaraj echoed Modi’s views in an entry on Twitter: “Mr Prime Minister - No dialogue over dead bodies. Pl(ease) cancel your meeting with Nawaz Sharif."

According to former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, Singh should rethink his plan to meet Sharif given that “an officer of the rank of lieutenant colonel has been killed."

Singh should call off his present meeting with Sharif “while not completely closing the door," Sibal said. India should convey to Pakistan that the meeting has been postponed due to the attack but dialogue with Pakistan will continue at other appropriate levels, he said.

India has faced an insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir since 1989 and has accused Pakistan of supporting the militants fighting Indian rule. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks violence in Kashmir, 128 people, including 44 security personnel, have been killed in the region this year, before the latest attack. That compares with 117 people killed in 2012.

PTI and Reuters contributed to this report.

Close