January 10, 2013 2:43 pm

Third clash raises Kashmir tensions

Pakistan says one of its soldiers has been killed by firing from Indian forces in the third lethal skirmish in four days in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours had been improving in recent months and both sides had agreed to promote more bilateral trade. However, since Sunday Islamabad and New Delhi have accused each other of violating the “Line of Control” that separates their armies in Kashmir.

“There has been an increase in ceasefire violations. There has been an increase in infiltration attempts,” Shivshankar Menon, India’s national security adviser, said in New Delhi on Thursday, accusing Pakistan of “reprehensible, barbaric, dastardly” behaviour.

Pakistan said one of its soldiers was killed on Sunday by an Indian incursion into Pakistani-controlled territory, and two days later India said two of its soldiers were killed in a firefight when Pakistani troops crossed the LoC in thick fog.

Indian officials initially said the head of one of the dead Indians had been removed, although the ministry of external affairs was vaguer, alleging the bodies were “subjected to barbaric and inhuman mutilation”.

Pakistan and India each denied they had crossed the line.

The two governments have so far sought to prevent the incidents from reversing their recent rapprochement. Salman Khurshid, Indian foreign minister, described Pakistan’s actions as “completely unacceptable”, but said: “There should not be any escalation over the incident.”

Hina Rabbani Khar, his Pakistani counterpart, called for a third party to launch an inquiry into the ceasefire violations and also said Pakistan did not want to “escalate” the situation or undermine the peace process with India.

According to The Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper, the latest flare-up began after a 70-year-old grandmother crossed from Indian-held territory into the Pakistani zone in September to be with her children and grandchildren.

That prompted the Indians to construct new bunkers to secure the line. The building work was in violation of a 2003 ceasefire agreement and was regarded as a provocation by the Pakistani army, The Hindu said.

Sporadic exchanges of fire across the LoC have happened for years, but military experts say incursions are rare in winter and have been sharply curtailed on the Indian side by improved policing of the line and by the use of Israeli-made detection equipment.

India and Pakistan have fought three major wars – two over Kashmir – since partition at the time of independence from Britain in 1947.

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