India says Pakistani troops attacked border posts
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — India on Wednesday accused Pakistani troops of firing guns and mortars on at least 50 Indian border posts overnight in disputed Kashmir, calling it the most serious cease-fire violation between the nuclear-armed neighbors in a decade.
The attacks began Tuesday night in southern Kashmir after India’s home minister visited the region to review security, Border Security Force spokesman Vinod Yadav said. Indian troops returned fire, but one Indian guard was killed and six were injured by a shell fired at the Arnia post in the Jammu region, he said.
At least 100 civilians were being moved from the villages of Arnia and Ramgarh near the frontier, local Indian police officer Rajesh Kumar said. Hundreds more were sheltering overnight in government camps away from any gunfire, which had injured 12 civilians in recent days, officials said.
“These people usually go back to their homes in the day as the firing incidents mainly occur during the night,” said civil administrator Shantmanu, who uses one name.
While nearly 200 smaller violations of the 2003 cease-fire agreement have been reported this year, Yadav called the latest skirmishes the most serious in a decade. In most cases, India or Pakistan accuses the other of initiating the fighting.
India also regularly accuses Pakistan of supporting Kashmiri rebels who have been fighting on the Indian side since 1989 for independence or a merger with Pakistan. An estimated 68,000 people have been killed in the conflict, though most resistance is now shown through street protests. Pakistan denies giving any backing to the rebels beyond moral support.
Both India and Pakistan, however, have reported an increase in the number of cross-border attacks since the current Pakistani and Indian prime ministers held their first face-to-face meeting last month in New York and agreed on the need to reduce tensions.
Pakistan said Indian troops targeted 27 Pakistani posts near Sialkot in the last two days with machine guns and mortars. The Indians fired nearly 4,000 mortars and 59,000 machine gun rounds, and Pakistani troops responded, Pakistan’s military said. During the last two weeks, Indian troops have killed two Pakistani civilians and a soldier and wounded 26 other civilians, it said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed his nation’s dispute with India over Kashmir when he met President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday. After their meeting, neither leader mentioned the latest clashes in the disputed region, but Obama praised Sharif for seeking to end tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors that have fueled an arms race between them.
Sharif said he was committed to cooperation with India, including on Kashmir. He has said he would ask Obama for U.S. intervention and help in resolving the dispute.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid in New Delhi rejected the idea of U.S. involvement, saying Kashmir was a “bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.”
India and Pakistan fought wars in 1947 and 1965 over their rival claims to the Himalayan territory, and have regularly sparred over the heavily militarized Line of Control that divides the territory between them. Serious fighting also erupted in 1999, when the Pakistani army and Pakistan-backed rebels occupied mountaintops on the Indian side in the eastern Kargil region of Kashmir.
On Monday, the top elected official on the Indian side, Omar Abdullah, said New Delhi should “look at other options” if Pakistan continues to violate the cease-fire.
He did not elaborate, but local politicians who want to separate from India’s administration said Abdullah’s comment’s amounted to “war mongering” against Pakistan.
India’s Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was in the Jammu region of Indian Kashmir on Tuesday to meet with troops and security officials after reported skirmishes last week.
Associated Press writer Sebastian Abbot contributed to this report from Islamabad.