Nuclear-Armed Rivals Pakistan, India Exchange Fire In Contested Region

REUTERS/Danish Ismail

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan reportedly exchanged fire Tuesday along the Line of Control (LoC) which divides the disputed Kashmir region.

The Indian army said it repelled two assaults by militants of unknown affiliation, as well as countered incoming fire from Pakistani positions, reports the Daily Times. Clashes took place near Srinagar and Naugam.

The assault in Kashmir constitutes a “ceasefire violation,” Indian army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia told reporters. A ceasefire has been in place along the heavily-militarized border since 2003; however, skirmishes and firefights still occur from time to time.

“Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing on our positions in the Uri sector, and we have retaliated,” Kalia told the Xinhua News Agency. Around a dozen armed militants attempted to infiltrate Indian positions near Uri. Eight to 10 of the attackers were killed by Indian troops during the battle.

Indian army spokesman Col. Manish revealed that a second attack involving an unknown number of militants took place near Naugam. One Indian soldier fell during the fighting, but the Indian army was ultimately able to defeat and push back the assailants.

Pakistan has denied all accusations that it engaged Indian troops near the LoC. “There has been no firing incident from Pakistan,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakria told The Express Tribune. “There seems to be some activity across the border, but there has been no activity from our side. Not one shot was fired from here,” Zakria explained to reporters.

A senior official in the Pakistani-controlled section of Kashmir said that there was no fire from their side. He did, however, confirm that both sides were strengthening their positions for a possible conflict, which would be dangerous given the nuclear capabilities of both India and Pakistan.

Tuesday’s fighting follows a raid Sunday on an Indian army base. 18 Indian soldiers were killed and another 20 were injured during the raid, making it one of the deadliest attacks in Kashmir in years.

Sunday’s attack was blamed on Jaish-e-Mohammad. India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming terrorists for attacks on India.

Despite saber-rattling by several Indian army officials, India has decided not to conduct heavy strikes against Pakistani positions. Some reports indicate that several upper-level officials convinced Prime Minister Narendra Modi that concentrated assaults on Pakistani positions on the opposite side of the LoC could spark a serious conflict.

The U.S. Department of State condemned the attacks on the army base in Uri.

During a Monday meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern over the recent violence in Kashmir and encouraged both sides to reduce tensions. He also called on India and Pakistan to show restraint with regard to the handling of their nuclear weapons programs.

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