Pakistan said Wednesday that two of its soldiers had been killed in “intense” military clashes with India in disputed Kashmir.
In a late-night statement, military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar accused Indian forces of initiating the fighting in violation of a cease-fire on the so-called Line of Control, which splits Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rival countries.
Iftikhar said Pakistani soldiers “responded befittingly” and inflicted "heavy losses” on Indian troops.
The skirmishes in the disputed Himalayan region came just hours after Pakistani security officials said the country’s military, air force and naval forces had been “put on high alert" to guard against a possible Indian cross-border attack.
New Delhi has neither commented on the border skirmishes nor responded to Islamabad’s assertions that India was contemplating an attack against Pakistan.
Clashes between Pakistani and Indian troops along the de facto Kashmir frontier have become routine in recent years, killing dozens of people on both sides and rendering the 2003 truce ineffective.
The regional tensions came as Pakistan and China kicked off joint air force exercises Wednesday from an undisclosed Pakistani “operational air base.”
An official statement said a contingent of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), comprising combat pilots, air defense controllers and technical ground crew, was taking part in the Shaheen series of annual air drills.
Air Vice Marshal Waqas Ahmed Sulehri of the Pakistan air force and PLAAF’s Major General Sun Hong witnessed the opening ceremony.
“The exercise will further enhance interoperability of both air forces, thereby fortifying brotherly relations between the two countries,” Sulehri was quoted as saying.
China and Pakistan, both locked in border tensions with their common rival, India, are longtime allies and maintain deep economic and defense ties.
Earlier this month, Islamabad and Beijing signed a new pact to boost cooperation between Pakistani and Chinese militaries. Neither side has shared details of the document that was sealed during Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe’s three-day visit to Pakistan.