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Pakistan Claims to Repel 'Unprovoked' Attack by India - 2002-08-23

Pakistan says it has repelled what it calls an "unprovoked" attack by India on the military line of control dividing the disputed Kashmir region. The fighting comes as a top U.S. diplomat arrived in the region as part of international efforts to reduce tensions between the two South Asian nations.

Pakistani military spokesman Major-General Rashid Qureshi said the attack hit a military post in the Gultari sector of northern Kashmir. He said Pakistan successfully defended the post, inflicting heavy casualties on Indian forces.

"The Indians in their frustration and desperation resorted to a highly escalatory act by bombing the area using the Indian Air Force," he said.

The spokesman said Pakistan has suffered no losses in the clash.

"There is intermittent fire by the Indian forces. There are efforts by the Indians to take away their dead bodies," he said. " Since Pakistan fire is accurate they may be finding it a little difficult in doing that."

Indian officials say there was a routine exchange of artillery fire, but there are no casualties on their side. India also denies there was an air strike in the area. No independent confirmation of the fighting is immediately available. The Pakistani post is remote and sits at an altitude of five thousand meters.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has arrived in the region to try to ease tensions between India and Pakistan. He met Indian leaders in New Delhi Friday and will travel to Pakistan on Saturday.

Major-General Qureshi said the Indian attack is aimed at undermining Mr. Armitage's visit.

"Whenever there is a high-profile visit to the subcontinent, the Indian government has got into the habit of either increased escalation or stage-managing an incident, perhaps try to justify why they have their forces massed on the border," he said.

India and Pakistan have been locked in a military standoff in Kashmir since an attack on the Indian Parliament in December that New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based Kashmiri separatists. Pakistan denies the allegations.

Both countries have ignored international appeals to pull back their forces to reduce the chance of a third war over the disputed territory of Kashmir.