By Asad Hashim and Fayaz Bukhari
ISLAMABAD/SRINAGAR, Sept 29 – Two Pakistani soldiers were killed in an exchange of fire with Indian forces across the de facto border in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir on Thursday, the Pakistani army said, as tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours remains high.
The exchange of fire took place in the Bhimber, Hot Spring, Kel and Lipa sectors in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and lasted about six hours, the Pakistani military’s press wing said in a statement.
An Indian army officer said that there had been shelling from the Pakistani side of the border into the Nowgam district of Indian-administered Kashmir.
“Pakistan troops fired at Indian posts in Nowgam sector of North Kashmir at midnight. They also fired mortars. Army at the LoC fired back and intermittent firing is going on,” the army officer said on condition of anonymity, referring to the Line of Control, or heavily militarised de facto border.
There were no casualties or damage reported on the Indian side of the LoC.
Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full, but govern separate parts, and have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.
Tension between the South Asian rivals has been high since an Indian crackdown on dissent in Kashmir following the killing by security forces of Burhan Wani, a young separatist leader, in July.
They rose even further when New Delhi blamed a September 18 attack on an Indian army camp in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which killed 18 soldiers, on Pakistan.
A senior Indian police officer said that the army had begun searching for possible infiltration of militants in the Nowgam area after Thursday’s firing.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of his cabinet committee on security after the Indian army accused Pakistan of breaching a 2003 ceasefire in Kashmir. Defence and foreign ministry officials are due to brief media in New Delhi following that meeting.
“The ceasefire violation proves that Pakistan is determined to reject international rules. This will be taken up to all global forums,” an aide to Modi told Reuters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the record.
On Wednesday, officials from several countries said a November summit of the South Asian bloc SAARC due to be held in Islamabad may be called off after several members decided not to attend amid the rising tension between India and Pakistan.