The Pakistani military accused India on Monday (November 14) of killing seven soldiers in cross-border fire in disputed Kashmir, in what appeared to be an unusually high toll after months of surging tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
“Seven (Pakistani) soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom) at the Line of Control (LoC) in Bhimber sector in a crossfire LOC violation by Indian troops late last night,” the military said in a statement.
“Pakistani troops while responding to Indian unprovoked firing targeted Indian posts effectively.”
A spokesman for India’s army said its soldiers had responded to Pakistani firing on Sunday night.
“There was a brief ceasefire violation initiated by Pakistani in Noushera sector which was effectively retaliated last night,” the spokesman told reporters, declining to comment on any Indian casualties.
He also said there was ongoing firing between the two countries’ forces on Monday along another part of the frontier.
Tensions across the long-disputed de facto Himalayan border reached dangerous levels in September, when India blamed Pakistani militants for a raid on an army base that killed 19 soldiers.
India said it had responded by carrying out “surgical strikes” across the heavily militarised border, sparking a furious reaction from Islamabad, which denied the strikes took place.
There have since been repeated outbreaks of cross-border firing, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries including of civilians, though the deaths of seven soldiers in what appeared to be one such incident is relatively high.
The border skirmishes come against the backdrop of months of protests against Indian rule in Kashmir, sparked by the killing of a popular rebel leader in July.
Nearly 90 people, most of them young protesters, have been killed in clashes with security forces in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir since then.
Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif accused India of carrying out the latest cross-border skirmishes in an effort to distract the world’s attention from the violent protests.
“We are fully capable of defending our soil against any aggression,” he added in a statement.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over the mountainous region.
The two sides have also expelled diplomats in a tit-for-tat row that has even spilled into the glamorous world of Bollywood. (AFP, Reuters)