India, Pakistan trade more accusations of firings
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — India and Pakistan have again accused each other of firing across their disputed Kashmir border on Tuesday, the latest in a series of allegations of cross-border attacks made by both over the past week.
The flare-up has threatened to derail recent peace overtures between the nuclear-armed rivals that followed the election of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
But Sharif pushed ahead with his outreach to India, calling for the countries to become “good friends.”
“Let us make a new beginning. Let us sit together to resolve all outstanding issues in a friendly manner and in a peaceful atmosphere,” he said in a statement, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported Tuesday.
Meanwhile, an Indian army commander said Tuesday that Pakistani troops fired intermittently through the night at two posts in the Mendhar sector on the de-facto border, 180 kilometers (115 miles) southwest of Srinagar, the main city in India’s portion of Kashmir.
He said Indian soldiers responded as Pakistani troops used small arms, machine guns and mortars. No casualties were reported.
On the Pakistan side, a military official accused Indian troops of firing late Monday at Pakistani military posts. The official said the Indian fire was “unprovoked” and that Pakistani forces responded.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan but divided between them. The countries have fought three wars — two over Kashmir— since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.
Pakistan had earlier accused Indian troops of shelling its territory along the border on Monday and killing a civilian. India denied the charge, saying Pakistani troops initiated the firing.
The recent round of violence began a week ago when India accused Pakistani soldiers and militants of crossing the frontier and killing five Indian soldiers in the deadliest fighting along the boundary since 1999, when the two armies fought pitched battles in the Himalayan region of Kargil. Pakistan denied involvement and accused Indian soldiers of severely wounding a Pakistani citizen along the border last Thursday. India denied the allegation.
A 2003 cease-fire agreement has largely calmed the military line between the countries, although each side occasionally accuses the other of violating it by firing mortars or gunshots across the Line of Control, which serves as the de facto border.
Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, implied that the new violence would damage relations between the countries.
“Unprovoked incidents on the line of control naturally have consequences on bilateral relations,” he said.
He reiterated the government’s longstanding demands that Pakistan prevent its territory from being used for attacks on India, that it crack down on anti-Indian militant groups and that it bring to justice the masterminds behind the deadly 2008 attack on India’s financial center of Mumbai.
In Islamabad, Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar said the Pakistan government was backing away from granting India most favored nation status, a decision that had been in the works for the last few years. Sharif had been expected to move quickly on MFN because of his interest in reviving the country’s economy and improving relations with India.
Akbaruddin brushed off questions about the Pakistani change of heart, implying Islamabad was violating its commitment to the World Trade Organization.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.