FILE - An Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) member stands guard at a checkpoint along a highway leading to Ladakh, at Gagangeer, in Kashmir's Ganderbal district, Sept. 2, 2020.
FILE - An Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) member stands guard at a checkpoint along a highway leading to Ladakh, at Gagangeer, in Kashmir's Ganderbal district, Sept. 2, 2020.

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and India have reported “intense” cross-border clashes in the disputed Kashmir territory a day after the United States reiterated its offer to facilitate peace talks between the South Asian rivals.  
 
The Pakistani military said Wednesday two of its soldiers were killed by Indian gunfire in an “unprovoked cease-fire violation” along the Line of Control (LOC), which separates the Indian- and Pakistani-ruled parts of the Himalayan region.
 
The army’s media wing claimed retaliatory gunfire by Pakistani troops had inflicted “substantial damage” on the Indian posts where the shooting was initiated.  
 
An Indian Defense Ministry spokesman blamed Pakistani forces for resorting to the early morning “firing with small arms and intense shelling with mortars” in the southern Poonch district along the LOC. He did not report any casualties and said the Indian army retaliated “befittingly.”
 
The nuclear-armed neighboring countries routinely accuse each other of unprovoked attacks in violation of their 2003 mutual cease-fire in Kashmir. The clashes have killed dozens of civilians and soldiers on both sides in recent months.   
 
Islamabad and New Delhi claim Kashmir in its entirety and have fought two wars over the Muslim-majority region.  
 
US mediation offer
 
On Tuesday, William Todd, President Donald Trump’s nominee as the next U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, called for defusing the regional tensions.
 
“Our hope is that both countries will take the necessary steps to reduce tensions. And as President Trump has offered, we are prepared to facilitate dialogue if both sides request it,” Todd told a congressional hearing in Washington.  
 
Todd stressed in his testimony that the Trump administration was pursuing a “strong” relationship with both India and Pakistan.
 
“In terms of regional dynamics, although we have a strong relationship with India, that does not need to come at the expense of Pakistan,” he said. "I believe that under the right conditions, we can have a strong relationship with both countries."
 
India firmly opposes any third-party mediation in its bilateral disputes with Pakistan, including Kashmir.
 
Regional tensions have dangerously escalated since August 2019, when India revoked a decades long semi-autonomous status for Indian-administered Kashmir and split it into two union territories.  
 
Islamabad rejected the move, saying Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute under a long-standing United Nations Security Council resolution.  
 

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