India, Pakistan exchange small arms fire, rhetoric over Kashmir

Nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan on Saturday exchanged fire across a border in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, violating a ceasefire.

Tension has been running high between the two South Asian countries since Thursday when India claimed it had carried out "surgical strikes" against militants in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.  

“Indian forces once again resorted to unprovoked firing and shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) at Chamb sector," a statement by the Pakistani army said, adding that the early Saturday incident had lasted four hours.

A "befitting response" from the Pakistani side had "silenced the Indian guns," it added.

The LoC divides Kashmir into two parts each ruled by Pakistan and India. Both countries claim the entire region and have fought two wars over it since their independence from Britain in 1947.

An Indian Defence Ministry spokesman said Indian troops responded after Pakistan Rangers fired across the international border with India in Jammu and Kashmir state’s Akhnoor sector from early Saturday. 

Both sides used small arms and automatic weapons and intermittent fire was continuing, he said. 

India has said that Pakistan Rangers had also fired in two areas on the LoC – Naugam and Poonch – on Friday.

India and Pakistan agreed to maintain a ceasefire along the LoC and their shared border in Kashmir in 2003, but skirmishes have continued.

In the latest such encounter, India claimed its soldiers had attacked groups of militants gathered across the LoC in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir with the intent of infiltrating into India and carrying out terrorist attacks.

India said there were heavy casualties on the other side in the "surgical strikes" but Pakistan denied that any such strikes had taken place and said two of its soldiers died and nine were injured in cross border fire.

India's claimed action came 10 days after a militant attack on an army camp in Uri in Kashmir in which 18 Indian soldiers died. New Delhi believes Pakistan-based militants carried out the attack, but Islamabad has denied that charge.

India and Pakistan have kept up the exchange of rhetoric since Thursday amid international concern about a wider or more critical conflict.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for urgent de-escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan and an end to violence in the region, according to an overnight statement by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.

Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN Maleeha Lodhi had met Ban in New York on Friday and briefed him about tension with India, Pakistan said.

Last update: Sat, 01/10/2016 - 10:23

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