Five Indian soldiers were killed in an attack on their post along the disputed border with Pakistan in Kashmir, a senior Indian official said on Tuesday,just as the two countries were moving towards resuming stalled peace talks.
It was not who clear who carried out the attack in the Poonch sector and a Pakistani security official denied involvement.
The two armies, which are locked in face-to-face confrontation along the heavily militarised border, clashed in Poonch in January after one Indian soldier was killed and decapitated. Facing public outrage over the attack, India called off planned peace talks with Pakistan.
"Was briefed early this morning about news that five of our soldiers had been killed on the LOC. My heartfelt condolences to their next of kin," Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in a Tweet, referring to the Line of Control dividing the two countries in the Himalayan region.
The killings caused an uproar in the Indian parliament as lawmakers demanded the government explain what happened. Defence Minister A.K. Antony would make a statement in parliament later in the day, officials said.
Indian officials said a border post in Chakanda Bagh of Poonch district had been attacked but gave no details.
Late last month, Pakistan's new government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proposed dates for talks and New Delhi had been preparing a response.
"This is an extremely unfortunate incident. If Pakistan wants to have better relations with India, this is not the way," Indian Junior Home Minister R.P.N. Singh said outside parliament in New Delhi.
A Pakistani security official denied there had been any exchange of fire on the border. "There has been no incident whatsoever," a security official said on condition of anonymity.
Lasting peace elusive
A lasting peace between Pakistan and India, which have fought three wars since both gained independence in 1947, has long proved elusive. With many fearing an upsurge in conflict in Afghanistan after Western forces pull out next year, it is even more important for India and Pakistan to ratchet down tension, according to some analysts.
Before the killings, there had been talk of a meeting between Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - who made better ties with India a theme in his election campaign in May - and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September.
India charges that Pakistan arms and harbours militants in Kashmir, the Muslim-majority territory claimed by both nations, and pushes them across the 740-km (460-mile) de facto border.
Pakistan denies arming the militants, saying it offers only moral support to the people of Kashmir.
There has been a spate of unusually deadly militant attacks on Indian security forces in Kashmir this year. Around 25 militants have been killed by India's armed forces in the past month, according to Indian officials.
Indian military analysts have long feared that militant groups opposed to India would turn their focus to Kashmir once Western forces leave Afghanistan in 2014.
India blamed external forces for an attack on the Indian consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Saturday where it has been locked in a struggle for influence with Pakistan. Nine people were killed in that attack.