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Central & South Asia

India and Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir

One Pakistani soldier dead in border skirmish, as each side accuses other of cease-fire violation in disputed region.
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2013 23:53

A Pakistani soldier has been killed and another injured in a skirmish with Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir.

India and Pakistan traded accusations on Sunday of violating the cease-fire in Kashmir, with Islamabad accusing Indian troops of a cross-border raid that killed a soldier and India charging that Pakistani shelling destroyed a home on its side.

The Pakistani army said in a statement that they had repulsed an attack on the Sawan Patra checkpoint in Kashmir.

"We retaliated only using small arms. We believe it was clearly an attempt on their part to facilitate infiltration of militants."

- Colonel Brijesh Pandey, Indian army spokesman 

The two sides then exchanged fire across the Line of Control, an internationally recognised line in the disputed Kashmir region patrolled by troops from both countries.

Colonel Brijesh Pandey, a spokesman for the Indian army in Kashmir, said that Pakistani troops "initiated unprovoked firing" and fired mortars and automatic weapons at Indian posts early Sunday morning.

He said Pakistani shelling had destroyed a civilian home on the Indian side.

"We retaliated only using small arms. We believe it was clearly an attempt on their part to facilitate infiltration of militants," Pandey said.

Conflicting accounts

Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said attacks across the Line of Control are not uncommon. 

"We're getting conflicting reports from both sides. The Indians are saying that this was retaliatory fire for a mortar attack coming from the Pakistani side. However, the Pakistani military said a number of Indian soldiers took on a Pakistani military post, after which the Pakistanis retaliated and the Indians were forced to flee, leaving some of their weapons behind," our correspondent said.

"It is a tricky area and it must be understood that this is all happening on a day when both the Indian and the Pakistani national cricket teams are playing their third and the last of a series of one-day matches."

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, when they became independent from Britain.

Kashmir, and the human rights abuses committed there by Indian troops, is a politically explosive issue in Pakistan.

Pakistani security forces have long been accused of training armed groups to attack Indian soldiers. 

The two countries fought their most recent war in 1999, when Pakistani troops crossed the Line of Control and occupied Indian territory in Kargil, but were forced to withdraw.

After a period of quiet, relations between the two countries nosedived again in 2008, when a fighter squad rampaged through the Indian city of Mumbai, killing 166 people.

India accused Pakistan of sheltering the masterminds behind the attack, charges that Pakistan denies.

Alleged rapprochement

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The two countries have been slowly repairing relations in recent months. In November, India executed a Pakistani man who was the last surviving perpetrator of the Mumbai attack.

Last month the two countries signed a deal designed to ease visa restrictions for some citizens to travel between the two countries.

Tension between the two countries has also spilled over into nearby Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan. India offers military and economic aid there, but many Pakistanis fear this is an attempt to lessen Pakistan's influence.

The US has repeatedly urged Pakistan to move against al-Qaeda havens along its Afghan border. Pakistan says it does not have enough troops because so many of them are patrolling the border with India.

Some US officials also believe Pakistan is unwilling to move against the fighters because some elements in Pakistan's security forces would prefer to be able to use the fighters to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops have pulled out by the end of 2014.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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