Two die in border firing as India, Pakistan militaries maintain tough posture
| July 18, 2017, 12:27 a.m.
The armies of India and Pakistan on Monday warned each other of retaliation against any military aggression along the Line of Control (LoC) as border tension escalated after a five-year-old girl and a soldier were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in heavy shelling by Pakistani forces.
The latest in a series of ceasefire violations came even as two senior military commanders of the two sides held talks to de-escalate the tension, a day after four Pakistani soldiers and a civilian were killed after the Indian Army allegedly targeted a Pakistan Army vehicle across the LoC -- which divides Jammu and Kashmir between them -- in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
A military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Manish Mehta, said in Jammu that Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked shelling at Bhimber Gali, Mendhar and Balakote sectors of Poonch and Rajouri districts.
The Pakistan shelling hit a girl, who was identified as Saida of Balakote in Poonch district. The soldier was killed in Rajouri district's Tarkundi area.
The spokesman said the firing along the LoC stopped in the afternoon as the Indian Army retaliated "strongly and effectively".
Authorities have decided to close all schools indefinitely near the border in Rajouri district.
Exchanges of fire also took place in at least three place in Kashmir's Uri sector where an Indian soldier was injured. The firing in the Uri sector was still on.
As the border tension raged, the Directors General of Military Operation (DGMO) of India and Pakistan spoke over the hotline. The DGMOs usually speak on Tuesdays but Monday's was an unscheduled conversation on Pakistan's request.
The Indian DGMO, Lt. General A.K. Bhatt, pointed out that "all the ceasefire violations" were being initiated by the Pakistan Army, according to an Indian Army statement.
The DGMO also noted that firing by Indian troops was initiated against armed intruders trying to sneak into India "from close proximity of Pakistan posts".
"The trend of infiltration along the LoC continued with active support of Pakistan forward posts impacting peace and tranquility along the LoC and also the internal security situation."
He said continued attempts of sniping and targeting of Indian troops were "undertaken through cross border actions supported by Pakistani Army troops.
"The Indian Army reserves the right to retaliate appropriately to any incident of violation of ceasefire but is sincere in its effort to maintain peace provided there was reciprocity."
During the talks, the Pakistan DGMO, Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, raised the issues of targeting of Pakistani troops resulting in the death of four soldiers and a civilian in Athmuqam sector of Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Sunday.
Pakistan's The News daily quoting unnamed sources as saying the Pakistan DGMO "strongly protested" against the deaths and told his Indian counterpart that his forces reserved "the right to respond to any Indian aggression".
According to the Pakistan military, Indian troops targeted an Army vehicle that fell into the Neelum river and the four soldiers drowned.
The two armies have repeatedly exchanged heavy fire this summer along the winding LoC that has left many soldiers and civilians dead on both sides.
Two Indian soldiers were killed in Kupwara sector of the Kashmir Valley on July 12.
India and Pakistan had in November 2003 agreed to cease fire along the de facto border but violations have intensified since the 2016 Kashmir unrest and amid souring of ties between the two countries.