Kashmir border skirmishes raise India-Pakistan tensions
Pakistani forces allegedly shelled an Indian military post Wednesday, prompting renewed emphasis on peace talks.
A series of deadly skirmishes along the India-Pakistan border are endangering the official cease-fire between the two nations, increasing tensions already sparked by a lethal series of terrorist bombings in India last weekend.Skip to next paragraph
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The Hindu newspaper reports that Indian military along the Line of Control (LoC), the border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, claimed that they were shelled by Pakistani forces on Wednesday, though no one was injured.
Army sources said six mortar shells were fired at the Keryan Post, in the Nowgam sector, early on Wednesday morning. Manned by troops of 16 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, the Keryan Post falls under the command of the Kupwara-based 19 Infantry Division, a formation responsible for defending one of the most sensitive, infiltration-besieged stretches of the LoC.
Indian commanders, the sources said, ordered their troops not to respond to the shelling, which is believed to be part of a deliberate Pakistani military escalation strategy intended to precipitate a crisis.
The Pakistani daily Dawn reports, however, that Pakistani military officials denied that any shelling had taken place.
Kashmir and the LoC have been points of contention between India and Pakistan since 1947, when the two countries were gained independence from the British. The nations have fought several wars over the territory, which both sides claim. The latest confrontation occurred in 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir. India and Pakistan committed to a cease-fire in 2003 and have gradually been renewing diplomatic ties. But the recent violence has threatened that progress.
The Telegraph of Calcutta writes that the shelling, the latest in a string of attacks that began earlier this week, has increased pressure on India to respond to Pakistan in kind. Pakistan is also accused of involvement in a series of bombings last weekend in the western city of Ahmedabad.
In India, the increase in the frequency of ceasefire violations coincides with terror attacks in Bangalore and Ahmedabad and the bomb scare in Surat. Army officials say the Pakistan Army abets infiltration of militants into Kashmir by opening fire on Indian positions.
If defence minister Antony's contention yesterday that Pakistan had violated the ceasefire 19 times since January this year is true, today's incident is the 20th time that the Indian Army has borne the brunt of Pakistani firing without retaliating.
But pressure is mounting on the government and in army headquarters to respond to the violations. In the months before the November 2003 ceasefire agreement, the Indian Army used to respond with multiple volleys of artillery fire to shooting from the Pakistan Army in what it said was "punitive action".
"The defence minister has already warned (Pakistan)," said Lt General Raj Kadyan, retired deputy chief of army staff. "But if such violations carry on and then we start retaliatory action, the ceasefire is over. The defence minister's warning can be said to be in preparation for that."