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India, Pakistan Trying to Defuse Rising Tensions in Kashmir

Tensions between regional rivals India and Pakistan have escalated in recent weeks as the two nuclear-armed countries continue to clash along the disputed border that divides the parts of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir controlled by each country.

Some of the recent confrontations have been deadly. Both countries have accused one another of provocation.

According to the Associated Press (AP), both countries are trying to defuse the rising tensions. On Monday, The Times of India reported that National Security advisers from Islamabad and New Delhi have agreed to make an effort to reduce the tension before it escalates into a much bigger conflict.

The United Nations has “offered to mediate the matter” between India and Pakistan, adding that it is “following this situation with great concern” and urged both sides to exercise restraint, points out CNN.

AP notes:

[Anonymous] Officials in Islamabad say Pakistan and India are trying to de-escalate border tensions after their troops exchanged several rounds of gunfire over the last week in the disputed Kashmir region.

The officials said Tuesday that Pakistani adviser Nasser Khan Janjua spoke with India’s security adviser Ajit Doval by phone briefly on Monday, discussing ways to restore calm.

Although Pakistan, India, and China all have competing claims to Kashmir, Beijing, which has a relationship with both countries, has remained in the shadows during recent territorial disputes.

While China is one of India’s most important trade partners, it also provides more weapons to Pakistan than to any other country. Moreover, China builds Pakistan’s nuclear reactors.

Since Pakistan separated from India, both countries have claimed control of all of Kashmir, but each only controls part of it. The Himalayan region’s Muslim-majority residents reportedly favor independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Pakistan and India have fought two wars over Kashmir since British colonialists left in 1947.

In recent weeks, both countries appear to be ignoring the 2003 Kashmir ceasefire.

CNN reports:

India has relocated more than 10,000 people from around the disputed border area of Kashmir as tensions escalated this week with Pakistan.

The killing of Burhan Wani, commander of the Kashmir-based terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, by Indian troops in July exacerbated the strained relationship between India and Pakistan.

Tensions have intensified further since India accused Pakistan of backing militants who carried out an attack in Indian-held Kashmir on Sept. 18 that killed at least 18 Indian soldiers.

In response, India launched “surgical strikes” against four camps in Pakistan-held Kashmir, killing 38 terrorists, according to New Delhi.

However, Islamabad maintains there were no strikes. It claims that Indian troops used small arms and mortars to specifically target Pakistani military personnel, killing two soldiers and wounding nine others.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants in Kashmir fighting for independence from India or its merger with Pakistan, a charge that Islamabad denies. Pakistan has also been accused of being linked to to terrorist groups operating in Kashmir, namely Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

Meanwhile, Pakistan accuses New Delhi of cracking down on dissent in India-held Kashmir, particularly following the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Commander and separatist leader Wani.

TIME reports:

While the Hindu Jammu section of Kashmir seems to be content with remaining a part of India, the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley favors independence from anywhere between 75 to 95 percent, according to a 2010 study … But Indian officials seem fixated on Pakistan for the moment.

CBS News adds:

Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favor independence or a merger with Pakistan. A militant uprising and subsequent [Indian] army crackdown since 1989 have killed more than 68,000 people.

On Monday, Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fire across the Line of Control (LoC), a heavily militarized and mountainous frontier that divides the sections of Kashmir controlled by each country. The clash, which resulted in no casualties, marks the latest incident that is fueling the rising tension between the two countries.

On Saturday, Pakistani and Indian troops also exchanged fire in the Bhimber sector of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, reports DAWN, noting that there were no casualties on either side.

The following day, suspected militants targeted an Indian army camp, the local headquarters of a counterinsurgency military unit, in the portion of Kashmir controlled by India, killing one soldier and killing one other.

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