Indian Army Accuses Pakistan Of 'serious' Ceasefire Violation

29 July 2008
Agence France-Presse

Srinagar: The Indian army accused Pakistan Tuesday of a 'serious' ceasefire violation along the Line of Control in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir after a fierce overnight gun battle. The fighting was sparked by an incursion and killing of an Indian soldier by a small unit of Pakistani troops in the mountains north of Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's summer capital, the army said. 'The fighting lasted for 13 to 14 hours,' Indian army spokesman Anil Kumar Mathur told AFP. 'It is a very serious issue. The Pakistanis have been violating the ceasefire over the past few months, but this is the first time they physically moved in and killed a colleague of ours.' The fighting involved small arms fire but no heavy weapons, the army said. Indian media reports said four Pakistani troops were also killed, but neither side could confirm the deaths. 'It is a serious violation of the ceasefire and we will lodge a strong protest,' Mathur said, adding that Indian troops had 'effectively retaliated' during the overnight clashes. In Islamabad, the Pakistani army's spokesman said late Monday he had no information on the clash. On Tuesday, Indian army spokeswoman Neha Goyal said the latest clashes halted with India proposing a 'flag meeting' - or formal meeting by army officers from both sides - at Teetwal, a frontline village about 170-kilometres (105 miles) north of Srinagar. India and Pakistan fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since their independence in 1947 and came dangerously close to a full-scale conflict in 1999 when New Delhi accused Islamabad of pushing troops into its Kargil peaks. That incident sparked a mini-war lasting several weeks. The complaint of an incursion by Pakistani troops is the first to be made by India since the Kargil clashes nine years ago. The South Asian rivals agreed to a ceasefire along the Line of Control in November 2003 and launched a peace process in January 2004. Since then the heavy guns have fallen mostly silent, but there have been sporadic small clashes and India has made repeated complaints that Pakistani troops have been helping Islamic militants infiltrate Indian territory. An insurgency against Indian rule over a part of Muslim-majority Kashmir has been raging since 1989. The latest clashes come a week after Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said the peace process was 'under stress,' citing incidents along the Line of Control and in Kashmir, and New Delhi's claim that 'elements' in Islamabad were behind the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul earlier this month. Indian and Pakistani leaders are scheduled to meet at an upcoming South Asian summit in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo this weekend.