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August 06, 2013

India Accuses Pakistan of Killing 5 Soldiers in Kashmir

by Anjana Pasricha

India has accused Pakistan of killing five soldiers and injuring another in an attack along the disputed Kashmir border. The attack could set back efforts by the two rival countries to resume a stalled peace dialogue.
        
Indian army officials said Tuesday Pakistani soldiers entered the Indian side of the Kashmir border and ambushed a military post around midnight. They called it a “gross violation” of a 2003 ceasefire. 
 
The Pakistani army denied involvement and dismissed the Indian allegations as baseless.
 
In New Delhi, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony told parliament that about 20 heavily armed men wearing Pakistani army uniforms launched the attack. 
 
“We strongly condemn this unprovoked incident," Antony said. "Government of India has lodged strong protest with government of Pakistan through diplomatic channels. I assure the house that our army is fully ready to take all necessary steps.”
 
The defense minister said ceasefire violations along the Kashmir border had increased 80 percent this year. 
  
Other officials suggested that the incident could adversely impact efforts to improve ties between the two rival nations. Junior Home Minister R.P.N. Singh called the killings of the soldiers an extremely “unfortunate incident.”
 
“If Pakistan wants to have better relations with India, I think this is not the way we are going to have better relations,” Singh said.
 
The deaths of the Indian soldiers created an uproar in parliament, with opposition lawmakers questioning Pakistan’s commitment to peace.
 
The incident comes just as the two countries were planning to restart peace talks that India had called off in January following deadly cross border clashes that claimed the lives of both Indian and Pakistani soldiers. 
   
The proposed dialogue was seen as part of a commitment by the new Pakistani government to build friendly ties with India. Earlier this month, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent his representative, Shaharyar Khan, to meet his Indian counterpart in New Delhi.
 
There also has been talk of the two leaders meeting in September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
    
But in New Delhi, there are concerns that the latest cross border clash -- like the January incident -- could spoil chances for building peace. In a message on the internet social network Twitter, Kashmir’s chief minister, Omar Abdullah, said such violent incidents may call the recent Pakistan peace overtures into question.
 
A truce along the so-called line of control that divides Kashmir between the South Asian rivals has been holding for nearly a decade, but it has become more volatile this year.