ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says that fire by Indian troops in the disputed Kashmir region on Thursday killed one of its soldiers. India has yet to comment on the attack, the third deadly cross-border incident reported since Sunday. However, Indian and Pakistani leaders have stated they are determined to prevent the military tensions from derailing their fragile bilateral peace process.
Pakistani army officials say Thursday’s attack took place in the Battal region when Indian troops “resorted to unprovoked” firing from across the military “Line of Control” dividing Kashmir. They claim a Pakistani soldier manning a border post in the area died in the incident.
The attack comes just two days after India accused Pakistani troops of launching a cross-border raid in Kashmir that killed two Indian soldiers.
The border skirmishes began on Sunday when Pakistan said Indian troops crossed the Line of Control and raided a Pakistani military outpost, killing a Pakistani soldier and critically wounding another.
The clashes between the nuclear-armed neighbors are the worst outbreak of violence in Kashmir since a ceasefire went into effect in 2003.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad shortly before Thursday’s border clash, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar tried to allay fears the stand-off in Kashmir could derail the ongoing bilateral peace process.
“I will hope not and I will see [the fighting not derailing or [setting back] the process," she said.
She criticized Indian officials for not looking into Pakistan’s complaints regarding Sunday’s deadly cross-border raid and accused them of instead making provocative statements to raise tensions.
“We were a bit appalled and unpleasantly surprised to see such strong statements emanating (from India). We have commitment to abide by the ceasefire and to pursue mechanisms which exist to be able to deal with issues like this and problems like this," she said.
Foreign Minister Khar was referring to allegations that Pakistani troops beheaded one of the Indian soldiers they killed during Tuesday’s cross-border raid. She reiterated her country’s call for the United Nations to investigate the attacks.
“And we have conveyed to the Indian side that that is certainly an option which is on the table because we have clearly nothing to hide. We would want a third party to investigate the matter and to set the record straight," she said.
Indian authorities have rejected the Pakistani demand for a U.N. inquiry into the incidents because New Delhi has always opposed involvement of a third party to settle the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan.
Islamabad and New Delhi have reported significant progress in their ongoing bilateral peace process in recent months. The engagement is aimed at normalizing political, trade, cultural and sports ties to create an environment conducive to discussing long-running disputes like Kashmir.
Foreign Minister Khar said her country is determined to carry that process forward. “Pakistan government and the Pakistani people have demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to normalize and improve relations with India and to really start a journey of trust-building," she said.
The disputed Kashmir region has sparked two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. New Delhi has long accused Islamabad of supporting a Muslim insurgency in the Indian-ruled portion of Kashmir, a charge Pakistani has consistently denied.