Aijaz Hussain, Associated Press
9:38 am EDT, Thursday, October 1, 2020
Photo: Mukhtar Khan, AP
Indian army soldiers guard on top of their armored vehicle as they return from an overnight gun-battle with suspected rebels at Samboora village, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. Two suspected rebels were killed and a soldier was injured in the overnight gun-battle, police said.
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — At least three Indian soldiers were killed and five others wounded by Pakistani shelling along the highly militarized frontier dividing Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals, the Indian army said Thursday.
Indian army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said two soldiers died and four were wounded on Thursday when Pakistani soldiers fired mortar rounds and other weapons in the northwestern Nowgam sector along the Line of Control in Kupwara district.
Kalia called the incident “an unprovoked violation” of a 2003 cease-fire accord and said Indian troops gave a “befitting response.”
Separately, one soldier was killed and another wounded in Pakistani shelling and firing in southern Poonch district along the frontier on Wednesday night, said Lt. Col. Devender Anand, another Indian military spokesman.
Pakistan did not directly comment on the deaths. In the past, each side has accused the other of starting border skirmishes in the disputed Himalayan region, which both claim in its entirety.
However, Pakistan summoned an Indian diplomat on Thursday to register a protest over a cease-fire violation leading to serious injuries to a 65-year-old woman on Wednesday, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Earlier Thursday, Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri accused New Delhi of escalating tension along the Line of Control “to divert world attention from its human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir.”
Chaudhri said at a weekly media briefing that India has committed 2,404 cease-fire violations since January in which 19 people were killed and 192 others were wounded in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s military said Indian troops opened fire across the border in the region, killing a 15-year-old boy and a soldier and wounding four villagers.
The Indian government says Pakistan has committed more than 3,000 cease-fire violations so far this year.
The two neighbors have fought two wars over the territory, and India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or unification with Pakistan. Pakistan denies the charge and says it offers only diplomatic and moral support to the rebels.
Tensions soared in February 2019, when a suicide bombing killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, and India retaliated with airstrikes inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan shot down one of the warplanes in Kashmir and captured a pilot who was quickly released. India said the strikes targeted Pakistan-based militants responsible for the suicide bombing.
Relations have been further strained since August last year, when India revoked the Muslim-majority region’s decades-old semi-autonomous status and divided the region in two federally governed territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, touching off anger on both sides of the frontier.
Since then, rival troops have traded fire almost daily along the rugged and mountainous frontier, leaving dozens of civilians and soldiers dead on both sides.
The violence comes amid heightened tensions between India and China along their disputed border in Ladakh region, where the two Asia giants are locked in a monthslong bitter standoff. The high-altitude desert region borders China on one side and Pakistan on the other, and is the world’s only junction of three nuclear-armed nations.
In recent months, the two countries have amassed tens of thousands of additional troops in the already militarized region. In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash on a high ridge between soldiers using clubs, stones and their fists.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.