The government’s decision to adopt a hard line against Pakistan over the killing of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control was taken on Monday at a hurriedly called meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which resulted in the suspension of the implementation of the new visa agreement and cooling of sporting ties.
A day later, it also saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh making his first comments on the incident, warning Islamabad that it cannot be business as usual and demanding that those responsible for beheading an Indian soldier be brought to book.
The sequence of events took most by surprise because around 5 pm on Monday, the Indian high commission in Pakistan issued a press statement announcing that the visa-on-arrival system for senior Pakistani citizens would start from Tuesday, signalling that the first part of the new visa agreement was being implemented.
But a different script was being written in New Delhi. The CCS was called to take stock of the flag meeting between local commanders of India and Pakistan earlier that day, as well as to assess the overall situation in the wake of growing anger among the troops and the strong political statements from the BJP.
It was also the day Sushma Swaraj had called for bringing back 10 heads from Pakistan in retaliation, echoing sentiments of troops in the 13 Rajputana Rifles regiment to which the two dead soldiers, Hemraj and Sudhakar Singh, belonged. The CCS meeting was to be held earlier but had to be rescheduled for 6.30 pm so that Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who was out of the city, could attend.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid was, however, in Bhutan to deliver the formal invitation to the King of Bhutan to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade. The decisions were taken in his absence with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai representing the MEA, which was broadly of the view that this incident should not be allowed to derail the peace process.
In fact, Khurshid reflected this line while speaking to reporters in Bhutan right after the Army Chief’s pre-Army Day press interaction in Delhi. Khurshid said “enormous investment” had been made in the peace process and this incident should not affect it. However, the final assessment of the CCS was quite different.
There was no call or decision to step back from the peace process, but an endorsement of the