Indian And Pakistani Forces In Kashmir Meet In Bid To Curb Fighting

27 August 2014
The Wall Street Journal
Sameer Yasir And Niharika Mandhana

Abdullain: Officers from Indian and Pakistani security forces sought to ease tensions Wednesday after two weeks of fighting that has killed at least six people and left thousands homeless on both sides. The recent cross-border artillery and mortar fire has marked one of the most severe escalations of violence in the disputed region of Kashmir in recent years, and a sharp deterioration in relations between the two nuclear-armed states. On Wednesday, officers of India's Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers met in the border region and agreed to hold further discussions in an effort to reduce tensions, said Rakesh Sharma, an Indian officer said in a televised interview. The governments of India and Pakistan have each blamed the other for the latest surge in hostilities. New Delhi last week pulled out of talks that were scheduled for the weekend after Pakistan's top envoy in India met with Kashmiri separatist leaders. Kashmir is claimed by both Pakistan and India, and the territorial dispute is at the heart of the enmity between the two countries. Settling the dispute over Kashmir is considered essential to any long-term peace deal between the two nations. The fighting has driven many residents into shelters and disrupted life along the border. India and Pakistan signed a cease-fire agreement in 2003 that reduced hostilities, but didn't put an end to them entirely. Lata Devi says she planned to spend Wednesday night in a security post. Her husband and two young children left Abdullain, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, last week to seek shelter farther away from the border with Pakistan, but Ms. Devi stayed to look after the family farm. 'If I die, at least my husband will be able to take care of the children,' Ms. Devi said. 'We hope the firing ends soon and things return to normal.' Ali Hussain, a farmer from Abdullain, said he left the village after a mortar shell crashed through the roof his home on Saturday, killing his brother and a 13-year-old nephew. Mr. Hussain and his four surviving family members have sought shelter in a camp set up on the grounds of an industrial training institute in a small town farther from the border. Around 100 families are now living there. Mr. Hussain said he won't go home until the fighting stops. 'We don't know when a mortar shell will hit our homes and kill us,' he said. As border tensions have heated-up, diplomatic relations have worsened. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on an Aug, 12 visit to Jammu and Kashmir, said that Pakistan was too weak to fight a conventional war against India and was resorting to 'a proxy war' using militants and terrorists. After Pakistan's high commissioner met with Kashmiri separatists, India said its foreign secretary wouldn't attend the talks aimed at improving ties. K.C. Singh, a security analyst and former Indian diplomat, said the Pakistani army had escalated border tensions to attract international attention after India's decision to cancel talks. In India, the government's decision received a mixed response. Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said on Sunday that he hoped Mr. Modi's government would reconsider its decision to end the border hostilities. 'I hope there is some rethink on this,' Mr. Abdullah said. 'The cease-fire violations are increasing in intensity. By design now, civilian areas are being targeted, civilians are being killed and injured. People are being forced to migrate from border areas.' Harnam Singh, 40, whose leg was injured by splinters from a mortar shell that fell in his village, Vidipur, near the border said he 'feared a war' and wouldn't go home 'until the rattle of gunfire' stopped.