ISLAMABAD - India and Pakistan exchanged gunfire Monday in the disputed Kashmir region, killing several soldiers on both sides. Each side blamed the other starting the altercation, giving its own figures for the number of dead.
India claimed its troops killed seven Pakistani soldiers, while one Indian soldier died. Pakistan said four of its soldiers died in Indian firing, while its forces killed three in retaliatory fire.
India accuses Pakistan of sending militants across the border to carry out terrorist activities on its soil. Pakistan, on the other hand, accuses India of grave human rights violations in the part of Kashmir under Indian control, which has long faced a separatist movement.
Clashes along the 745 kilometer line of control that divides Kashmir have become an almost common occurrence during the past couple of years.
The two sides signed a cease-fire agreement in 2003 that led to a period of relative calm between the two nuclear armed neighbors, after they fought a limited war in Kashmir in 1999. They two sides also fought for Kashmir in 1947 and 1965.
In July 2016, anti-India protests broke out in Indian controlled Kashmir after young separatist leader Burhan Wani was killed by Indian forces. Human rights organizations accused India of a heavy-handed response that killed dozens of people and maimed thousands of others.
Last week, Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat said Pakistan’s nuclear weapons may not deter the Indian army from entering its territory.
“If we will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff,” Rawat said.
Pakistan’s foreign minister Khwaja Asif called this statement “irresponsible” and an “invitation for nuclear encounter.”