MUZAFFARABAD: Pakistan summoned India’s deputy ambassador yesterday to protest over the latest clashes in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir that left one civilian dead. The Pakistani military accused India of “unprovoked firing” across the de facto border in the early hours of Monday morning, the latest in a series of violent confrontations in Kashmir.
Tensions have flared again in the heavily militarised Kashmir valley with the nuclear-armed neighbours both pointing the finger at each other. The latest incident took place when “Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing in the wee hours Monday” in three areas along the de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC), a military official said.
“Pakistani troops effectively responded to Indian firing,” he said, adding that one civilian was killed “due to unprovoked Indian shelling”. Pakistan’s foreign ministry voiced concerns over what it called “continuous ceasefire violations by Indian border security force” across the LoC in recent days.
“The Foreign Office summoned the Indian Deputy High Commissioner this afternoon to raise this concern which has resulted in the loss of an innocent civilian life in Rawalakot,” the ministry said in a statement. However, the Indian army accused Pakistan of violating the ceasefire. “Our side responded to the unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side with small arms. Intermittent firing went on for the whole night till Monday morning,” said Rajesh Kalia, a spokesman of the Indian army in Kashmir.
On Sunday morning, a paramilitary border guard was injured in sniper fire from the Pakistani side of the LoC in Kashmir’s Kanachak area, the army said. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been vocal in his desire for better relations with India since his election in May, but recent flare-ups have tested resolve on both sides.
The picturesque Himalayan territory is divided between India and Pakistan by the UN-monitored LoC, but both countries claim it in full. A deadly flare-up along the LoC in January brought a halt to peace talks that had only just resumed following a three-year hiatus sparked by the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. India blamed Pakistani militants for the attack.
The prime minister of the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, led a 400-strong protest march to the UN observer mission in Muzaffarabad to demand action to restore peace. “It is the responsibility of the UN observer mission to keep peace in Kashmir,” he told protesters. “They should fulfil their responsibility by playing a role to stop shelling from India and restore calm in the valley.”
Atiq Ahmed, a policeman in Dounga Gambhir, a village that came under fire, said up to six animals had been killed and several houses damaged. Villager Tahir Majeed, 37, said he hid in a bunker near his house when the shelling began around midnight. “We remained in the bunker till the morning because the shelling continued for the whole night,” he told AFP. “We are very scared and my children are unable to leave home.”