Pakistan accused Indian soldiers of firing across their mutual border in the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir in the Himalayas on Sunday, killing two civilians and wounding another.
In a statement issued Monday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry deemed “unprovoked ceasefire violations” by India as the cause of the civilians’ fatalities, the Associated Press (AP) reported, adding:
The military said two men aged 75 and 61 were killed. It said in a statement that Pakistani troops returned fire at the Indian posts from which mortar fire and anti-tank guided missiles had originated.
It said two Indian troops were killed, but there was no immediate comment from New Delhi.
India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety. However, a border — the Line of Control (LOC) — separates Indian-administered Kashmir from the portion held by Pakistan.
Despite a 2003 ceasefire, there are skirmishes along the LOC almost daily. The recent civilian deaths came after increasing clashes between India and Pakistan along the Kashmir border.
The two sides engaged in battle on Thursday, resulting in the killing of five Pakistani troops and the death of three Indian soldiers, Voice of America (VOA) reported. Pakistan reportedly killed the Indian soldiers in “retaliatory fire.”
On Sunday, there were also confrontations between “hundreds” of residents and Indian security forces in Srinagar, the largest city in Indian Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority area in the country, the News International reported.
On Monday, the AP noted:
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed concern over continued ceasefire violations by India and urged the international community to take note of human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Talking to journalists late Sunday in the city of Multan, he challenged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold a vote to determine whether Indian and Kashmiri people support or reject the changes his government made to Kashmir’s status.
Tensions between the two rivals have intensified since New Delhi revoked Indian Kashmir’s autonomy on August 5 and split the region into two federally controlled areas.
Nuclear-armed India, Pakistan, and China all have competing claims to Kashmir territories. Pakistan and China have warned that India’s recent moves could trigger military conflict with Beijing, warning it could lead to a nuclear war.
Beijing controls territory in Pakistani Kashmir ceded by Islamabad. Meanwhile, India disputes Beijing’s’ occupation of lands on its side of its Kashmir border with Pakistan.
New Delhi has deployed thousands of security forces to Kashmir. Indian authorities have already detained more than 1,300 people, including pro-New Delhi officials and other politicians.
New Delhi’s decision to rescind Indian-administered Kashmir’s autonomy came amid a security lockdown and a communication blackout.
India has blocked phone lines, the internet, and news outlets in a crackdown that reportedly continues in some parts.
Mohammed Latief, an Indian Kashmir resident, told the AP: “Why would I risk sending my kids to school when the government is uncertain about the security situation?”
Some news reports suggested the lockdown, intended to avert protests in Indian Kashmir, would only last through Thursday — India’s Independence Day.
However, New Delhi reportedly lifted the restrictions only from the Hindu-majority portion of Indian Kashmir. The constraints reportedly continue in the Muslim areas despite New Delhi’s claims to the contrary, AP reported Sunday. Other news outlets noted that India reimposed the security lockdown following the clashes between residents and security forces over the weekend.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) added Sunday:
Authorities in Indian-held Kashmir reimposed limits on people’s movement on August 18 following a flare-up in violence as officials claimed to be easing their nearly two-week crackdown sparked by a downgrade in the region’s autonomy.
The overnight skirmishes between residents and police left dozens injured, according to senior officials and eyewitnesses quoted by Reuters.
Indian Kashmir residents are facing difficulties buying food and medicine.
“There is no internet, no telephone, no communication, no transportation,” Ahmad proclaimed, suggesting that the area is currently under “siege.”
“We are living like animals,” he said. “So I request everybody, please come and solve this situation. Nobody is coming out of their homes.”
Fighting between Indian security forces and separatists seeking independence or a merger with Pakistan has left more than 70,000 people dead in the last three decades.
In July, the United Nations warned that the number of civilian casualties in Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019 alone might have already reached the “highest in over a decade.”
Citing data compiled by local civil society groups, the U.N. added that there were 586 fatalities in Kashmir in 2018, including 160 civilians and 159 security forces personnel.
Indian and Pakistan have fought two major wars over Kashmir. China and India have also fought a separate war over the region.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) defended New Delhi’s actions in Kashmir on India’s Independence Day Thursday.
Modi and the BJP, which has long vowed to strip Indian Kashmir of its autonomy, won a landslide victory in elections held this year.