Pakistan takes foreign diplomats to LoC as tension with India escalates


ISLAMABAD: Amidst increasing tension and trust deficit relations with neighbour India, Pakistani authorities on Tuesday took a group of foreign diplomats on a visit to the Line of Control (LOC) to debunk what it says are “false claims” made by the Indian army chief about destroying terror camp’s inside Pakistan over the weekend.

Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on Sunday that Indian forces had “smashed four terror launch pads” in Azad Kashmir. Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said India had no evidence to support the “false claim,” and announced that foreign diplomats and media would be taken to the area in question to verify for themselves “facts on the ground.” Pakistan also said six civilians and a soldier had died in “ruthless” shelling by Indian troops from across the LoC on Sunday.

Tuesday’s visit, arranged by the Pakistani army and foreign office, comes at a time of high tension between the rival countries. “The Indian side has not joined us in the visit to LoC, neither have they provided coordinates of the alleged ‘launchpads’,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal, who was part of the group, tweeted on Tuesday. “‘Claims’ by Indian Army Chief remain just that: ‘claims’,” Faisal said in another Twitter post.

During Tuesday’s visit, diplomats were taken to the Nauseri, Shahkot and Jura sectors along the LoC, including Nausada village, which Pakistan says suffered severe damage in attacks by Indian troops on the weekend.

Foreign diplomats and the media were shown pieces of the shells fired by Indian soldiers, state-run Radio Pakistan said. The diplomats also visited a local market, met shop owners and residents, and were shown damaged shops and houses.

Gaurav Ahluwalia, the current head of the Indian diplomatic mission in Pakistan, was invited along with heads of other diplomatic missions for the visit, a Pakistani official has confirmed. Commenting on the absence of Indian high commission staff from the group, Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet: “What good [is the] Indian High Commission which can’t stand with its Army Chief? Indian High Commission staff didn’t have the moral courage to accompany fellow diplomats in Pakistan to LOC.”

Asif Ghafoor said, “The statement of Indian COAS claiming destruction of three alleged camps in AJK is disappointing as he holds a very responsible position. There are no camps let alone targeting them. The Indian embassy is welcome to take any foreign diplomat/media to prove it on the ground.

“The propensity of false claims by senior Indian military leadership, especially since the Pulwama incident, is detrimental to peace in the region. Such false claims by the Indian army are being made to suit vested interests. This is against professional military ethics,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor said.

He added that the foreign diplomats had visited Jura bazaar and met the local population and shop owners and witnessed firsthand the damage inflicted on the shops and houses that were claimed to be launchpads by India.

Maj Gen Ghafoor — who had last night challenged Indian officials “to take any foreign diplomat/media to ‘prove’ [its allegations] on ground” — also commented on the absence of Indian officials: “What good [is the] Indian High Commission which can’t stand with its army chief?”

“Indian High Commission staff didn’t have the moral courage to accompany fellow diplomats in Pakistan to LoC,” he tweeted. “However, a group of foreign diplomats and media is on the way to LoC to see the truth on [the] ground.”