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India, Pakistan Tensions Mount Over Alleged Cease-Fire Violation

  • Anjana Pasricha

India has accused Pakistan of violating a 14-month cease-fire in the disputed Kashmir region.

Indian defense officials accused the Pakistani Army of firing at least 15 mortar shells across the border last Tuesday in the Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir state, in violation of a 14-month cease-fire.

India says it was the first time weapons of this caliber had been fired since the cease-fire.

Amid the tension, senior military officials from both countries spoke Wednesday morning on a special defense hotline.

The deputy chief of the Indian Army, Lieutenant General Bhupinder Singh Thakur, says New Delhi is reacting prudently to give Pakistan time to investigate.

"As far as our reaction is concerned we take it as a violation of the cease-fire," he said. "And we would like to use restraint, and that is what we have done so far and we have not retaliated. But I am sure the Pakistan government will consider this case in all its seriousness."

But Pakistani military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan, denied any official responsibility for the incident.

"There is no firing done by Pakistan across the line of control nor anyone else fired from the Pakistan side. We don't know what could be causes of those explosions or who might have done those explosions. We don't know. They are inside their territory and there is none from Pakistan side," he said.

The Line of Control, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, was reported to be quiet on Wednesday.

It had been one of the world's most volatile borders for decades with regular exchanges of artillery fire between the two armies positioned just meters from each other.

But the border has been calm since the two rivals called the cease-fire in November 2003 following a series of peace overtures. Both countries are now in the midst of a peace dialogue aimed at normalizing their tense relations. The dialogue is making slow progress, and there are few signs that the two sides are any closer to resolving their dispute over the Kashmir region, which is claimed by both countries.

Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh is due to visit Pakistan next month to carry the peace process forward.