Islamabad: Pakistan and India traded accusations on Sunday of violating the ceasefire in the disputed northern region of Kashmir, with Islamabad accusing Indian troops of a cross-border raid that killed one of its soldiers and India charging that Pakistani shelling destroyed a home on its side.
The accusation of a border crossing resulting in military deaths is unusual in Kashmir, where a ceasefire has held between the two nuclear-armed rivals for a decade.
The Pakistani military’s public relations office said in a statement that a Pakistani soldier was also critically wounded in the incident. It said troops exchanged gunfire after Indian forces crossed the “line of control” (LOC) dividing the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir in the Haji Pir sector and raided a post called Sawan Patra.
The remote area where the incident occurred is up in the Himalayan mountain peaks. The closest town of Bagh, about 50 km away, is itself about 260 km from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
Colonel Brijesh Pandey, a spokesman for the Indian army in Kashmir, called the allegations that Indian troops crossed the border “baseless”|. Instead, he 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. He said no Indian troops were hurt but had no information about any Pakistani casualties.
The mountainous Kashmir region has been a flashpoint of violence between the two neighbours for decades. Both claim the entire region as their own, and the countries fought two full-scale wars over control of Kashmir and some minor skirmishes.
On Saturday, leaders of a Pakistan-based militant coalition held a rally in the city of Muzaffarabad near Kashmir, in which they pledged to continue the fight to gain control of the entire region.
A 2003 ceasefire ended the most recent round of fighting. Each side occasionally accuses the other of violating it by lobbing mortars or shooting across the LOC.
A number of Pakistani civilians were wounded in November due to Indian shelling, and in October the Indian army said Pakistani troops fired across the disputed frontier, killing three civilians. But accusations that one side’s ground forces actually crossed the LOC are rarer.
Last month officials in Pakistani-administered Kashmir said cross-border fire from Indian troops killed a man and wounded three other civilians in two villages.
According to an official Indian report cited by the Press Trust of India, there were 71 firing incidents along the Line of Control in 2012 in which four Indian soldiers, two Indian civilians and one alleged Pakistani infiltrator were killed.
Fifteen others were injured, according to the report from the Kashmir state home ministry.
The latest clash occurred as the two countries wrapped up their first bilateral cricket series for five years.
Cricket has been used in the past to mend ties, but analysts have said the prospect of a diplomatic dividend this time appeared slim.
India suspended its peace process with Pakistan after deadly attacks by Pakistan-based militants in 2008 in Mumbai. Talks only resumed in February last year.
Both sides remain deadlocked over Kashmir but have made some progress on less contentious subjects such as trade.