Pakistan and India accused each other’s militaries on Friday of launching unprovoked shelling across their disputed Kashmir frontier — skirmishes that officials said caused mostly civilian casualties on both sides.
The Pakistani foreign ministry summoned India’s top diplomat in Islamabad to protest what it condemned as “unprovoked cease-fire violations” by Indian forces that resulted in the deaths of four civilians and injuries to 10 others.
Indian military officials accused Pakistan of firing first and confirmed the killings of six civilians and a soldier in what they said was “unprovoked and indiscriminate" shelling by Pakistani forces.
In recent years, almost weekly military skirmishes along the so-called Line of Control (LoC) in the Himalayan region have nearly torn down a 2003 mutual cease-fire truce between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, raising fears of a wider conflict.
Both India and Pakistan blame each other for starting the deadly clashes.
The Pakistani military said Indian forces early Friday began violating the cease-fire and targeted the civilian population in the Sialkot sector.
Pakistani troops, it said, retaliated and targeted ‘those Indian posts that initiated the fire.”
Officials on both sides reported that intermittent skirmishes were ongoing in the area and several other sectors on LoC.
The Pakistani foreign ministry in its statement accused the Indian forces of carrying out more than 1,000-cease-fire violations along the Kashmir frontier since the beginning of 2018, killing 28 innocent civilians and injuring 117 others. The statement did not mention details of any military casualties.
New Delhi contends that its troops typically open fire when Pakistan-backed militants attempt to slip into the Indian portion of Kashmir with a mission to carry out subversive activities and fuel a simmering separatist Muslim insurgency there.
Islamabad rejects the charges and demands that New Delhi holds talks on deciding the fate of Kashmir and defusing persistent tensions between the two countries.
Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, who also is the acting foreign minister of the country, has cautioned India to step back from its “massive” military escalation in Kashmir before it expands into another larger conflict.
“We are both nuclear powers and any kind of effort to escalate while remaining under the nuclear umbrella, which we believe India is doing, can have very disastrous consequences,” Khan told VOA in an interview earlier this month.
“If their thought is that they can somehow limit the scope of the war, or a conflict, that begins its playing with fire,” warned the Pakistani minister.
India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over the mostly Muslim region since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.