Army chief Gen Bikram Singh warns Pakistan of retaliation

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New Delhi, Jan 14: Army Chief General Bikram Singh has made it clear that the Indian soldiers deployed in Jammu and Kashmir will strike back strongly if there is any further provocation from their Pakistani counterparts.

"I have given very categorical directions to the Northern Command. When we are provoked we shall respond immediately. I expect my commanders to be aggressive in the face of firing," Singh said.

He condemned Pakistani troops for flouting rules of engagement by mutilating the bodies of Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh. The army chief termed the killings as a "gruesome and unpardonable act".

Pointing out that the decapitation of Hemraj has "strategic nuances", Singh emphasised: "Beheading of our soldiers is unacceptable." He said that India will lodge a strong protest over the incident at the brigadier-level flag meeting between the two sides today.

When asked what steps are being taken to get back the severed head of the 13 Rajputana Rifles jawan, Singh replied that the matter is being handled at the government-level and the Director General of Military Operations is also taking it up with Pakistan.

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Saying that India has gained "moral ascendancy" over Pakistan due to the latter acting in an unethical manner, the army chief said that the Jan 8 intrusion in the Mendhar sector was premeditated.

"Such an operation requires planning, detailed reconnaissance," Singh noted. "We reserve the right to retaliate to Pakistan's attack at a place and time of our choosing," he told newspersons here today.

Singh rubbished the Pakistani military's allegation about a cross-border raid two days before the Mendhar attack. "No operation was carried out by the Indian Army on Jan 6 as claimed by Pakistan," he stressed.

On the continuing ceasefire violations, the army chief identified "local dynamics" as the causative factor. "We have responded to ceasfire violations and they have been measured ... Commanders on the ground will decide where and what will be done based on ground realities," he added.

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