India and Pakistan Trade Blame in Kashmir Deaths

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SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

At least five Indian civilians and four Pakistani civilians were killed by overnight shelling along the disputed Indian-Pakistani border, both countries said on Monday, in fighting that brought an end to a monthlong lull in cross-border fire.

Three men and two women were killed and more than 20 people hospitalized with injuries after a night of heavy mortar fire, said Devender Singh, the police chief in a district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes Arnia, a village that was hit in the shelling.

The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that two children and a woman in the village of Dharmala, as well as a man in Tulsipur, had been killed. Six other people were said to have been wounded in what Pakistan called “unprovoked firing” and a violation of a cease-fire agreement.

Each side blamed the other for the shooting. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said that Islamabad had “lodged strong protest” to India through diplomatic channels.

The Indian Army released a statement saying that there had been no casualties among its troops and that “equal effective response of unprovoked firing was given.” Arun Jaitley, the Indian defense minister, blamed Pakistan for the violence.

“Pakistan must realize that the kind of environment it is generating between the two countries is certainly not going to help in normalizing the relations,” he said. “The onus of creating a positive environment is on Pakistan, which is utterly failing to do so.”

India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed neighbors, have fought three wars over the disputed border and maintain fragile diplomatic relations. A cease-fire had mainly remained in place at the border since 2003.

For much of August, there were heavy exchanges of gunfire and shelling between border posts, causing thousands of people to flee to safer areas. At the time, D. K. Pathak, India’s chief of border security, described the crossfire as the biggest since the war the two countries fought in 1971.

India suspended official talks with Pakistan this summer after Pakistan’s ambassador met with separatist leaders from the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir. Since then, cease-fire violations and reports of infiltration attempts have gone up.

On Sept. 26, Gen. Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani Army chief, visited troops deployed near the city of Jhelum along the Line of Control, as the de facto border is known, where he was briefed by local commanders, according to a statement by the Pakistani military. General Sharif “reiterated that any provocation along the Line of Control will be responded effectively,” the statement said.

Rajnath Singh, India’s home minister, said Monday that the Indian side, now under the leadership of a new government, would have a tough response. “Pakistan should stop cease-fire violations and should understand the reality that times have changed in India,” he said.

On Monday, Mr. Pathak toured forward posts on the Indian side, telling reporters that “there has been equal or more volume of fire from our side also.”

www.shafaqna.com/english

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