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ISLAMABAD/newdelhi: A Pakistani soldier was killed and another injured in a gunfight between Indian and Pakistani troops in Kashmir yesterday, a disputed incident that could heighten tensions between the nuclear neighbours after a period of rapprochement.
The Pakistani Army said Indian troops had raided their Sawan Patra checkpost in Kashmir, a hotly contested area both countries claim as their own. The Indian military denied its soldiers had attacked a Pakistani position.
“Troops effectively responded and repulsed the attack,” a Pakistani army spokesman said in a statement.
The two sides then exchanged fire across the Line of Control, an internationally recognised line in Kashmir patrolled by troops from both countries, he said.
Indian Army spokesman Colonel Jagadish Dahiya said Indian troops had not crossed the Line of Control. “However, there was a ceasefire violation by Pakistan. Our troops retaliated by firing,” Dahiya said.
“None of our troops crossed the Line of Control. We have no casualties or injuries.”
Another spokesman for the Indian Army said its post at Churuda, 100km northwest of major city Srinagar, came under “unprovoked” heavy mortar and automatic gun fire for about five hours early yesterday.
“We did retaliate,” Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.
There were more than 75 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in 2012, killing eight people. Most of the violations were exchanges of fire between the two sides. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, when they became independent from Britain.
Kashmir, and the human rights abuses committed there by Indian troops, is a politically explosive issue in Pakistan. Pakistani security forces have long trained militant groups to attack Indian soldiers. The two countries fought their most recent war in 1999, when Pakistani troops crossed the Line of Control and occupied Indian territory in Kargil, but were forced to withdraw.
After a period of quiet, relations between the two countries nosedived again in 2008, when a militant squad rampaged through Mumbai, killing 166 people. India accused Pakistan of sheltering the masterminds behind the attacks, charges that Pakistan denies.
The two countries have been slowly repairing relations in recent months. In November, India executed Pakistani Ajmal Kasab, the last surviving perpetrator of the Mumbai attacks.
Last month the two countries signed a deal designed to ease visa restrictions for some citizens to travel between both countries.
Tension between the two countries has also spilled over into nearby Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan. India offers military and economic aid there, but many Pakistanis fear this is an attempt to lessen Pakistan’s influence.
Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira says improved ties with India have reduced the external threat to his country.
“Yes, we had a very difficult time with India. We have fought three wars,” he said. “Our forces were determined and they were cautious of the Indian threat. That threat is not over. Of course still it is there. But now the internal threat has taken over. It is a greater threat of course now. Pakistan is the biggest victim of this terrorism or extremism.”
The US has repeatedly urged Pakistan to move against Al Qaeda and militant havens along its Afghan border.
Pakistan says it does not have enough troops because so many of them are patrolling the border with India.
Some US officials also believe Pakistan is unwilling to move against the militants because some elements in its security forces would prefer to be able to use the militants to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops have pulled out by the end of 2014.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, US Embassy deputy chief Richard Hoagland said his country appreciates Pakistan’s stepped up anti-terror efforts. Agencies