26 Dec, 2019 23:52 / Updated 20 hours ago
The latest border skirmish between Indian and Pakistani forces in the disputed Kashmir region claimed at least four lives, the arch-rivals confirmed while trying to pin the blame for ceasefire violations on each other.
The clash that occurred late on Wednesday was acknowledged by both Islamabad and New Delhi, but their accounts and casualty numbers differ significantly.
Two Pakistani soldiers were killed while responding to fire from the Indian side, Pakistan’s military spokesman, Major General Asif Ghafoor, said on Thursday, claiming that at least three Indian servicemen were killed by return fire.
Indian military officials, however, insist that it was the Pakistani military that shot first. One Indian soldier and a female civilian were killed during the skirmish, India’s military spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, said. No claims were made by New Delhi about the Pakistani casualties, yet the officials insisted the troops responded to the shooting from the Pakistani side “strongly and befittingly.”
The disputed Kashmir region, which is claimed by both nations as their own, has been a major source of tensions between India and Pakistan since they gained independence from British rule in 1947. Two major wars and numerous smaller-scale conflicts have taken place over the years due to the dispute.
While a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) – the de-facto border that crosses Kashmir – was established in 2003, it has been repeatedly violated by both nations. The most recent major escalation occurred in February when a suicide bombing by a Pakistani-based military group prompted a large-scale military response from India. New Delhi conducted cross-border bombing raids into Pakistan, and the two nuclear-armed countries even engaged in an aerial battle, stopping just short of all-out war.
Both India and Pakistan ultimately took steps to de-escalate the situation, but Kashmir once again became a flashpoint in August when New Delhi revoked the region’s autonomous status in order to integrate it with the rest of India.