Sun, Oct 02, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Pakistan, India trade fire in Kashmir

PREPARATIONS:India has begun evacuating villages within 10km of the Kashmir border while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered to act as a mediator

AFP, ISLAMABAD

An Indian Border Security Force soldier looks at the Pakistan side of the border through binoculars at Ranbir Singh Pura, about 35km from Jammu, India, on Sept. 24.

Photo: AP

Pakistan and India yesterday exchanged fresh fire across the Kashmir border, the Pakistani military said, with Indian officials stating there was no damage as tensions rise between the nuclear-armed rivals.

“Pakistani troops befittingly responded to Indian unprovoked firing,” which started at 4am and continued for four hours in Bhimber sector on the Pakistani side of the border, a military statement said.

It did not mention casualties.

“There was small arms fire and mortar shells fire from across the border in Akhnoor sector which lasted for around two hours [4am to 6am],” said Pawan Kotwal, a top civilian official in Jammu and Kashmir state on the Indian side.

“No damage was caused. We are ready for any eventuality, but it is peaceful in Jammu region,” he said.

The skirmish came two days after India claimed it had carried out “surgical strikes” across the heavily militarized Line of Control, the de facto border in the disputed territory, on what it called “terrorist” targets several kilometers inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

The rare public admission of such action sparked furious rhetoric from Pakistan and calls for restraint from the US and the UN.

Tensions between the two countries have been boiling since the Indian government accused Pakistan-based militants of launching an assault on an army base in Kashmir earlier last month that killed 18 soldiers.

“This is a dangerous moment for the region,” Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi said after meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters in New York.

Ban on Friday offered to act as a mediator between New Delhi and Islamabad to defuse the tensions.

The offer came after Lodhi urged him to personally intervene.

Ban called on “both sides to exercise maximum restraint and take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation,” a statement from his spokesman said.

The UN chief said India and Pakistan should address differences through diplomacy and dialogue, and offered to mediate.

“His good offices are available, if accepted by both sides,” the UN spokesman said.

“India has no desire to aggravate the situation,” and that “our response was a measured counter-terrorist strike,” India’s mission to the UN said in a statement

On Friday, authorities in parts of northern India said they had started evacuating villages within 10km of the border following the raids earlier this week.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain seven decades ago, two of them over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

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