Pakistan, India trade fire in Kashmir for over 16 hours

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Indian and Pakistani troops traded more fire in the disputed Kashmir region on Tuesday, following a 16-hour clash, military officials said, making it the worst violation of a 2003 ceasefire.

There have been a spate of very localized clashes along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border, in the past few months, after a long period of relative calm that followed the start of a peace process between the nuclear armed rivals in 2004.

But the latest firing broke out in Leepa sector of the LoC on Monday, and was continuing intermittently on Tuesday afternoon, according to Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas. One Indian soldier was killed.

It was third incident this month alone, and some analysts believe there is a deliberate attempt to destabilize the ceasefire line.

As usual, both sides had opposing versions of who was responsible.

Abbas said the firing began when Indian soldiers tried to set up a forward post and he rejected as “fictitious and unfounded” Indian claims that Pakistani troops crossed into Indian Kashmir.

“We have material evidence to suggest that the Indian soldiers had crossed the LoC,” he said, adding that it would be e shown to the Indians once a flag meeting between the commanders in the sectors was held.

Indian army had blamed Pakistani troops for attacking an Indian post after crossing into its territory.

The clashes in Kashmir border have taken place against a background of strained relations.

India and Afghanistan accused a Pakistan intelligence agency of involvement in a suicide attack outside the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 58 people, including two senior Indian diplomats, earlier this month.

Pakistan has denied any complicity.

The two countries have fought three wars since Pakistan’s formation out of the partition of India in 1947

The core dispute between the two countries is over Kashmir,

the only Muslim-majority state of mainly Hindu India.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and sending Islamist fighters across the border to fuel an insurgency in Kashmir that began in 1989.

Pakistan denies the charge and says it only offers political support to what it calls a legitimate freedom struggle.

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