RAWALPINDI/SIALKOT: India and Pakistan exchanged gunfire and mortar bombs along their disputed frontier on Thursday, killing five civilians and injuring more than a dozen, Pakistan said, days after the leaders of the nuclear-armed rivals agreed to high-level talks.
The escalating hostilities have chilled a brief thaw in ties after prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi met in Russia, but appeared unlikely to thwart a planned meeting of national security advisers. “We remain committed to steps that contribute to peace and tranquillity on the border,” Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said after top officials huddled in New Delhi on Friday. “However, there should be no doubt that any unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side would meet with an effective and forceful response from our forces.”
Five Pakistani civilians were killed “due to Indian unprovoked firing”, the Pakistan Army said in statements on the clashes on the frontier in the disputed Kashmir region. India said a women on its side of the frontier was killed in Pakistani firing the previous day. On Wednesday, the Pakistani military said it had shot down an Indian surveillance drone. A photograph released by the military appeared to show a small, unarmed model. The Indians denied the drone was theirs, with Jaishankar saying it appeared to be “commercially available” Chinese design.
Relations between the neighbours nosedived after militants attacked the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people. India believes Pakistan supports militants fighting security forces in Occupied Kashmir and launching attacks in Indian cities. Pakistan denies that. Sharif made improving relations with India a cornerstone of his 2013 election campaign but many army commanders remain suspicious of India. Modi, elected in 2014, belongs to a far right Hindu nationalist political party and is seen as hawkish on relations with Pakistan.
In the recent incident five people were killed and dozens others injured as India’s Border Security Force (BSF) resorted to unprovoked firing along the Working Boundary near Sialkot on Thursday. “Ghulam Mustafa, 45, Rahat and Boota, residents of village Malana and Salehpur villages were killed due to Indian BSF’s unprovoked firing on Working Boundary in Chaprar sector near Sialkot,” the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. “Pakistan Rangers befittingly responded to Indian fire,” the ISPR added.
Further, Zareena, 18, died at the Line of Control in Neza pir sector near Rawlakot. The incidents took place despite an ice breaking meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Russia on July 10. In a joint statement issued after the talks, the two countries had decided to arrange meetings of senior military officials to lower tensions along the LoC.