Clashes between the nuclear-armed militaries of India and Pakistan continue in the disputed and Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, less than two weeks after New Delhi accused Islamabad of backing militants who killed at least 18 Indian soldiers last month.
The September 18 attack on the army base in the Kashmir town of Uri marked the deadliest attack on the Indian army in the last 14 years.
Cross-border fire between India and Pakistan is not unprecedented.
Nevertheless, in what has been described as “retaliation” that came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed that those behind the September 18 assault “would not go unpunished,” India announced last Thursday that it launched “surgical strikes” against four camps in Pakistan-held Kashmir allegedly used by Pakistan-backed militants intent on attacking the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, reports The New York Times (NYT).
India claims it executed about 38 terrorists with the “surgical strikes.” However, Pakistan maintains there were no strikes. It alleges that small arms and mortars were used to target Pakistani military personnel, killing two soldiers and wounding nine others, notes NYT.
Unlike most of the recent clashes, Monday’s encounter between the two countries in Kashmir resulted in no casualties. CBS News reports:
Indian and Pakistani troops fired at each other in disputed Kashmir on Monday, as Indian troops searched an army camp elsewhere in the region where suspected militants killed an Indian paramilitary soldier.
The exchange of gunfire lasted about five hours and caused no casualties, according to an Indian army officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.
The Indian army accused their Pakistani counterparts of firing first without provocation, using small arms and mortar shells along the area that separates their respective region of Kashmir. Meanwhile, Pakistan said it was the Indian soldiers who fired unprovoked. DAWN reports, “Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fresh fire across the Line of Control (LoC) in three separate incidents on Monday, [Pakistan’s] Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.”
The 2003 Kashmir ceasefire between Pakistan and India appears to be falling apart.
In recent weeks, the relationship between the two countries has been plagued by cross-border clashes along the the Line of Control (LoC), which refers to a heavily militarized and mountainous frontier that divides the sections of Kashmir controlled by India and Pakistan.
Pakistan, India, and China all have competing claims to Kashmir. Although Pakistan and India claim all of Kashmir, each of them controls only part of it.
Following at least three weeks of constant clashes, India and Pakistan‘s National Security advisers have agreed to make an effort to reduce the tension before it escalates into a much bigger conflict, reports The Times of India.
“The Prime Minister had indicated quite clearly that till the issue of Kashmir was not resolved, tensions across the border would remain,” stressed Sartaj Aziz, adviser on foreign affairs to the prime minister of Pakistan.
India has long accused Pakistan for providing military assistance and training to rebels fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or seeking to merge the region with Pakistan, a charge that Islamabad continues to deny.
Pakistan has also been linked to terrorist groups operating in Kashmir, namely Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, and elsewhere in the region.
Besides India, the United States and neighboring Afghanistan have accused Pakistan of providing sanctuary to terrorist groups.
TIME reports Pakistan is not the only culprit behind the violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir, adding:
That’s because there are plenty of locals with grievances against India’s stewardship.
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.
Suspected militants carried out an attack late Sunday, targeting an Indian army camp, the local headquarters of a counterinsurgency military unit, in a town on the portion of Kashmir controlled by India.
“Police officer Syed Javeid Mujataba Gillani said it was not immediately known whether the militants tried to enter the camp during their attack, which killed one soldier and wounded another,” reports CBS News.
On Saturday, Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fire in the Bhimber sector of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, reports DAWN, adding that there were no casualties on either side.
DAWN adds, “Earlier in September, in one of the worst episodes of cross-border firing along the LoC, at least two Pakistan Army soldiers were killed as Indian troops opened fire on the first line of defense.”
“India expects global support to launch more focused action against Pakistan,” Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, told Reuters. “There was tremendous pressure on the Indian prime minister to prove that he is ready to take serious action.”
While Pakistan cozies up to China, its top weapons provider, India, is strengthening its relations with the United States.