India, Pakistan trade accusations over cross-border violence
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Pakistani troops fired gunshots and mortar shells that killed an Indian soldier in northern Kashmir on Monday after a lull in the countries’ cross-border firing, an Indian paramilitary official said. Pakistan blamed India for the violence and said two civilians were killed by Indian shelling.
The countries often trade accusations about who is to blame for firing and shelling in the disputed region, and tensions have heightened in recent days.
The Indian soldier was killed instantly when Pakistani forces opened fire in the Samba border sector of the border, said D. Parekh of the Border Security Force. The Pakistanis fired on at least 15 Indian border posts in the Samba and Kathua sectors on Monday, Parekh said.
The Pakistani military said in a statement that two people — both civilians — died from Indian shelling Monday evening. It said Pakistani Rangers, who patrol the area, responded “effectively” to the shelling.
Indian and Pakistani soldiers have fired across the border at different places for nearly six days in Kashmir, the Himalayan region claimed by both countries and divided between them. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since they won independence from Britain in 1947.
Around 1,500 people in Indian border villages were evacuated or fled their homes over the weekend. Some people went back to their homes and fields during a daytime lull in the firing on Sunday but returned to government-run relief camps later, said Shantmanu, a government official who uses one name.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday the U.S. remains concerned by the border tensions, and encourages dialogue between India and Pakistan.
India says Pakistani troops committed more than 550 violations of a cease-fire in 2014, the most since the two nations signed the accord in 2003.
While minor skirmishes are common, the worst violation of the cease-fire accord left nine civilians dead in Pakistan and nine in India in October.
India accuses Pakistan of sending militants into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir under the cover of the firing, which Pakistan denies.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in Islamabad contributed to this report.