Indian soldiers stand guard in June as Hindu pilgrims begin their annual… (Tauseef Mustafa / AFP/Getty…)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani army accused Indian troops of launching a cross-border raid early Sunday in the disputed Kashmir region that killed a Pakistani soldier, while India countered that it retaliated with small arms fire only after Pakistan fired first with shelling and automatic weapons.
What impact the incident will have on the recent warming in relations between the two nuclear archrivals remains to be seen. Cross-border firing between soldiers on both sides of the “line of control” that separates Pakistan- and India-administered Kashmir has happened on numerous occasions in the past, but raids over the border that involve soldier deaths have been rare.
Pakistan’s military claimed Indian troops crossed the line of control and raided a Pakistani army checkpost, killing one soldier and critically injuring another. “Pakistani army troops effectively responded and repulsed the attack successfully,” the Pakistani military said in a statement. Exchanges of gunfire along the border continued after the attack.
Col. Brijesh Pandey, a spokesman for the Indian army in Kashmir, told reporters that Pakistani troops “initiated unprovoked firing” and attacked with mortars and automatic weapons fire at Indian outposts, destroying a home on the Indian side of the border.
“We retaliated only using small arms,” Pandey said. “We believe it was clearly an attempt on their part to facilitate infiltration of militants.”
India has long accused the Pakistani military and the country’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, of actively supporting militant groups whose aim is to push Indian troops out of Kashmir and reclaim the disputed territory for Pakistan. One of those groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba, was blamed by the West and India of engineering a devastating series of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people.
On Saturday, leaders of a coalition of anti-India militant groups met in Muzaffarabad in the Pakistani-administered Azad, Jammu and Kashmir region and told reporters that armed struggle was the only solution to the conflict over Kashmir.
The dispute over the Kashmir region remains one of the biggest impediments to the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan. It has been the flashpoint for two of the three wars that both countries have fought since their independence from Britain in 1947. A cease-fire in Kashmir has been in place since 2003, and the “line of control” demarcates which areas are administered by each country.
Relations between the two countries have improved over the last year, with both countries endorsing a most favored nation agreement earlier this year that fosters trade through the mutual imposition of lower tariffs and higher import quotas. A visit by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to India last spring, the first time a head of state from either country has visited his rival counterpart, was seen on both sides of the border as an important symbolic gesture. And both sides have also pledged to ease visa requirements for business people, tourists and senior citizens.
Rodriguez reported from Islamabad and Magnier from New Delhi.
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