India, Pakistan border guards exchange fire along 25 locations on border in Kashmir

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-10-21 16:26:07

There has been no let-up in the skirmishes on international border (IB) between Indian and Pakistan near Kashmir as border guards of the two neighbors exchanged heavy fire and mortars at 25 different locations, officials said Monday.

According to officials, the firing started Sunday evening and continued until Monday morning along frontier villages of Samba, Kathua and Jammu districts, close to border.

Indian border guards of Border Security Force (BSF) said they have retaliated to unprovoked firing and shelling of Pakistani Rangers posted opposite to them in these areas. "Pak Rangers last night resorted to firing in Ramgarh sector of Samba district and at Arnia in RS Pura sub-sector of Jammu district," said an official. "Rangers fired 82 mm mortars, rockets and used other heavy weaponry targeting border outposts and villages."

The fresh firing has created panic in the areas and many people have started fleeing these villages.

Last week five civilians and two Indian border guards were wounded in the firing from Pakistani side.

Indian Home Minister Shushil Kumar Shinde is visiting the restive region on Tuesday. He is likely to review security situation along border and line-of-control (LoC) in wake of increasing cease-fire violations. Skirmishes between troops posted on LoC have been going on almost at daily basis since Aug. 6. Majority of exchanges took place on LoC in Poonch.

However, for the past few days similar skirmishes were reported on IB. Both sides have suffered troop as well as civilian casualties during the standoff on 720 km long LoC and 198 km IB.

LoC is a de facto border that divides Kashmir into India and Pakistan controlled parts. India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid Saturday had termed the ceasefire violations on the LoC as a matter of serious concern and said that it was not just an issue of diplomacy but also of military relations.

New Delhi and Islamabad in 2003 agreed to observe cease-fire along the IB and LoC in Kashmir. Though some violations have been reported on both sides, the cease-fire remains in effect. Both New Delhi and Islamabad blame each other of resorting to unprovoked firing.

Last month the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif during their meeting on the sidelines of UN general assembly agreed to reduce tension along LoC in Kashmir as the first step towards comprehensive peace in the region. However, the flare-up on the LoC has made the situation restive.

New Delhi and Islamabad have an institutional weekly telephone hotline dialogue between their Director-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) to keep things under check on LoC. Following the recent Singh-Sharif meeting, the two countries made an announcement that there would be directives for a special dialogue to sustain peace along the LoC and IB that would go beyond the routine.

So far there has been no directive from either the India's Prime Minister's Office or the defense minister to hold a special dialogue of the DGMOs. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of providing arms and training to Kashmiri militants. However, Islamabad says it only provides moral and political support to Kashmiris.

Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan, is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from British, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.

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