Pakistan accuses Indian troops of firing across Kashmir border, killing civilian
Aug 13, 2013, MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan // Pakistan accused Indian troops of firing shells across the disputed border in Kashmir yesterday that killed one civilian as tensions ran high in both countries after last week's killing of Indian soldiers set off a wave of skirmishes.
Indian Border Security Force soldier Pawan Kumar lies in a hospital bed in The Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu on August 11, 2013, after being injured in firing on the border with Pakistan. The incident is the latest in a spate of recent cross-border skirmishes between the two nuclear-armed neighbours who have fought three wars since independence from the British rule in 1947, two over the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir. Clashes flared along the 740-kilometre Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir on August 6 when five Indian soldiers were ambushed and killed in the Poonch region. New Delhi blamed the attack on the Pakistan army. Islamabad denied involvement.
While tit-for-tat shelling and machine-gun fire are common along the LoC, the current round of fighting is one of the most intense since a ceasefire signed in 2003. There have been protests in both countries and rowdy scenes in India's parliament. Under pressure from the opposition, the Indian government has hinted at retaliation. A Pakistani army official said yesterday that a civilian was killed as a result of "unprovoked Indian shelling". Islamabad summoned India's deputy high commissioner to Pakistan to register its concern over the death, the Pakistani foreign office said.
A spokesman for the Indian defence ministry offered a different version of events. He said Indian posts came under heavy mortar and automatic weapon fire overnight in the same area and that India "responded effectively". He said no damage or injuries were reported on the Indian side. The disputed Himalayan region was split between India and Pakistan in 1948 but they both claim it in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir and India accuses Pakistan of supporting separatist rebels fighting its rule in its part of Kashmir since 1989. The two armies have been exchanging fire on the front line since last Tuesday, straining the ceasefire that has largely held for nearly a decade.
The Indian army patrolled an area close to Poonch on India's side of the fence yesterday after three people died in riots between Hindus and Muslims over the weekend.
A curfew was in place in eight of 10 districts of the Jammu region to contain the unrest. Authorities also blocked mobile data transmission services in the region. Sporadic protests and clashes with police continued yesterday. On Pakistan's side of the border, hundreds of people took to the street in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, accusing India of stepping up attacks. India and Pakistan have been trying to restart stalled peace talks, possibly as early as this month, as well as arrange a meeting between the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, in New York in September.