India's tensions with Pakistan rise after five soldiers killed along their border

Pakistan denies Indian claim its soldiers helped 20 terrorists mount ambush

Indian army soldiers salute as they pay tribute to their colleagues at a wreath-laying ceremony in Poonch, India. India’s army says five of its soldiers were killed and another wounded when Pakistani troops fired at a patrol near the the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir yesterday. Photograph: AP

Indian army soldiers salute as they pay tribute to their colleagues at a wreath-laying ceremony in Poonch, India. India’s army says five of its soldiers were killed and another wounded when Pakistani troops fired at a patrol near the the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir yesterday. Photograph: AP

 


India yesterday accused the Pakistani military of killing five of its soldiers in an ambush along their disputed border in northern Jammu and Kashmir province, just as the two nuclear rivals were readying to resume long-stalled peace talks.

While Pakistan denied any hand in the attack on the Chakan Da Bagh post in the mountainous Poonch sector, 190km south of Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar, Indian defence minister AK Antony said New Delhi had lodged a diplomatic protest with Islamabad over the incident.

“Our military authorities have confirmed that there was no exchange of fire that could have resulted in such an incident,” said Pakistan’s foreign ministry, dismissing Indian allegations as “baseless and unfounded”.

The Islamabad statement added that Pakistan was committed to a “constructive, sustained and result-oriented process of engagement” with India and that it looked forward to an early resumption of the bilateral dialogue process.


Heavily armed terrorists
An Indian army spokesman said the attack was executed by 20 heavily armed terrorists accompanied by Pakistani soldiers along the unresolved line of control that divides Kashmir between the neighbours, both of which claim it in its entirety.

He said Pakistan had violated the ceasefire agreed in November 2003 57 times this year, nearly twice the frequency of last year.

The sides blame each other for these tit-for-tat cross-border violations and shooting incidents in which soldiers and civilians on both sides have been killed and wounded.

In January a similar incident in which two Indian soldiers were decapitated, reportedly by the Pakistani army, abruptly ended tentative moves towards the resumption of peace talks.

India accuses the Pakistani army of fuelling Kashmir’s 24-year-old Muslim insurgency for independence that has claimed more than 60,000 lives, by facilitating the ingress of militants across the fenced-off border.

Pakistan denies supporting the militants, saying it offers only political and moral support to the Kashmiri people in their fight against the Indian government.

Meanwhile, senior Indian government officials believe the soldiers’ deaths could jeopardise the resumption of peace talks that stalled after the November 2008 terrorist strike on Mumbai which Delhi also blamed on Islamabad.

Diplomats and security officials from both countries were readying themselves for a meeting between Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in September.

Sharif made better ties with India a cornerstone of his election campaign in May. Singh reciprocated by sending an envoy bearing a peace message to meet the prime minister premier after he assumed office.

Singh’s administration was attacked by the opposition which said talks could not take place with Pakistan in such a negative environment.

“Pakistan has killed our soldiers today and this is becoming a routine,” said opposition leader Yashwant Sinha.

“Why are we holding talks with such country? It is time we give Pakistan a powerful reply.”