India and Pakistan traded gunfire in the disputed Kashmir region early yesterday, killing two villagers on each side and wounding several others, officials said.
Indian Border Security Force official Dharmendra Pareek said Indian forces retaliated after Pakistani forces fired guns and mortar rounds on more than a dozen Indian border posts and at least three villages in the Ranbir Singh Pura region.
One Indian border guard and three civilians also were wounded, but their injuries were not life-threatening, he said.
Television images showed Indian villagers taking shelter in bunkers.
The area is about 300km northwest of Srinagar, the main city in the Indian portion of Kashmir.
In Pakistan, a senior army officer said that two villagers were killed yesterday, when the Indian border security force “resorted to unprovoked firing” along a ceasefire line near the city of Sialkot in the Pakistani portion of Kashmir. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters on the record.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and the neighboring countries claim the disputed Himalayan region in its entirety. They have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.
The Kashmir dispute is at the heart of the lingering animosity between the rivals. The two sides have largely followed a 2003 ceasefire accord, but sporadic violations have occurred.
Tension escalated in Kashmir after India last week called off diplomatic talks with Pakistan because the Pakistani ambassador in New Delhi met with separatist leaders from the disputed region.
India said the meeting undermined efforts to thaw relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
However, India has tolerated such meetings in the past, which suggests the country’s new government is taking a hard line against Pakistan.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgent groups fighting for Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan or independence from India since 1989.
Pakistan denies the charge and says it offers only moral and diplomatic support to them.
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