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Nasreen Kouser (11) injured in the cross-border shelling in Mendhar sector along the LoC, is being shifted to Government Medical College hospital in Jammu on Sunday. Photo: PTI
Nasreen Kouser (11) injured in the cross-border shelling in Mendhar sector along the LoC, is being shifted to Government Medical College hospital in Jammu on Sunday. Photo: PTI

India summons Pakistan envoy, lodges strong protest against killing of civilians

Pakistan deputy high commissioner Syed Haider Shah was told by the external affairs ministry that targeting of civilians is highly deplorable and condemned in the strongest terms

New Delhi: India on Monday summoned Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner Syed Haider Shah to protest the killing of five Indians in “unprovoked firing" by Pakistan forces over the weekend, a statement from the Indian foreign ministry said.

The victims were five members of a family, the statement said adding two other minor children were severely injured in unprovoked ceasefire violations by Pakistan forces on 18 March 2018 in Bhimber Gali Sector across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

So far, indiscriminate Pakistani firing has killed 23 civilians since the start of 2018, the statement said, adding that 560 instances of violations of a 2003 ceasefire were recorded this year. Seventy Indians had been injured, the statement added.

“It was conveyed that the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians, who are located two kilometers away from the forward line of defences, by Pakistan forces using high caliber weapons, is highly deplorable and is condemned in the strongest terms," the statement said.

“Such heinous acts are against established humanitarian norms and professional military conduct. Pakistan authorities are called upon to investigate into such heinous acts and instruct its forces to desist from such acts immediately," it said.

“Our strong concerns were shared at continued unprovoked firing and ceasefire violations across the Line of Control and the International Border," the statement said.

The killing of the five Indians and a spike in tensions over recent incidents of harassment of Indian and Pakistani diplomats in the other country have put paid to hopes of a possible thaw between the two countries sparked by Pakistan accepting Indian proposals to release sick, elderly and women prisoners.

Official peace talks between India and Pakistan have been stalled since 2013 and many attempts to get them restarted have come to nought.

Earlier on Monday, a statement from the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi said that Pakistan noted “with deep disappointment the non-issuance of visas by India for the visit of the 503 Pakistani Zaireen (pilgrims) to participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer Sharif, India from 19-29 March 2018." “ The visit was to take place under the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines and is a regular annual feature," the statement said.

Another batch of 192 Pakistani pilgrims “could not participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja NizamuddinAulia (RA) in Delhi from 1-8 January 2018, due to the non-issuance of visas by India," it added.

A person familiar with the developments on the Indian side said such visits “are facilitated and promoted and visas granted after following due processes."

However, “from time to time, such visits cannot take place in view of the prevailing circumstances and absence of requisite security clearances. There have been instances in the past when such visits did not take place from both sides," the person added.

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