The Pakistani military accused India on Monday of killing seven soldiers in cross-border fire in Kashmir, in what appeared to be an unusually high toll after months of surging tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
“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.”
Following the incident Pakistan summoned the Indian High Commissioner to protest the killing of the soldiers.
“The Foreign Secretary deplored the increasing Indian ceasefire violations at the LoC and the Working Boundary, especially in the last two months,” said a statement issued by the foreign office.
“The Foreign Secretary asked the Indian High Commissioner to convey to his government that it must stop the provocative firing and observe the ceasefire. Pakistan is pursuing a policy of restraint, which should not be construed as a sign of weakness,” the statement said.
However, the Indian army alleged that the ceasefire violation was initiated by Pakistan.
“There was a brief ceasefire violation, initiated by Pakistan in Naushera sector, which was effectively retaliated last night,” Col N N Joshi, Indian Army spokesman in the Kashmir region told AFP.
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 militarized 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.
Nearly 90 people, most of them young protesters, have been killed in clashes with security forces in Kashmir.
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.SHOW MORE