SOUTH ASIA

Kashmir clash kills four, days after India calls off talks in hint of tougher line

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 August, 2014, 5:44am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 August, 2014, 3:25pm
AP

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India and Pakistan traded gunfire in the disputed Kashmir region yesterday, killing two villagers on either side of their de facto border and wounding several others, officials said.

Dharmendra Pareek, a top official with India's paramilitary force, said Indian forces retaliated after Pakistani troops fired guns and mortar rounds on more than a dozen Indian border posts and at least three villages in the Ranbir Singh Pura region.

Pareek said two Indian villagers were killed, including an eight-year-old boy. One Indian border guard and three civilians were wounded, but their injuries were not life-threatening, he said.

Television images showed Indian villagers taking shelter in bunkers.

The region is about 300km northwest of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir.

In Pakistan, a senior army officer said two villagers were killed when the Indian border security force "resorted to unprovoked firing" along the border near the city of Sialkot.

Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said ceasefire violations by Pakistan had increased, adding that Indian forces "effectively respond to each violation".

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and the rival neighbours claim the disputed Himalayan region in its entirety. They have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir. The two sides have largely followed a 2003 ceasefire accord, but sporadic violations have occurred.

Tensions have risen in Kashmir since India last week called off diplomatic talks with Pakistan because its ambassador in New Delhi met with separatist leaders from the disputed region.

India said the meeting undermined efforts to thaw relations between the neighbours. But India has tolerated such meetings in the past, which suggests the country's new government is taking a hard line against Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgent groups fighting for Kashmir's merger with Pakistan or independence from India since 1989. Pakistan denies the charge and says it offers only moral and diplomatic support to them.