August 6, 2013


[“It happened last night. There are fatal casualties on Indian side. One of our post was attacked in Poonch area,” said S.N. Acharya, a spokesman for the Indian Army in the Jammu area of Indian-administered Kashmir. Poonch is a mountainous district around 200 kilometers, or 124 miles, from Srinagar, the summer capital and the largest city in the Indian-administered-Kashmir.]
Tauseef Mustafa/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesIndian Border Security Force personnel at an outpost on the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir in January 2013.
NEW DELHI — Five Indian soldiers were killed Monday night after Pakistani troops attacked an Indian post in the disputed border that divides the Indian-administered and Pakistan-administered parts of Kashmir, according to Indian Army officials.
The incident cast an immediate shadow on the warming relations between the two countries since the formation of a new government in Pakistan in June. Nawaz Sharif, the new prime minister of Pakistan, has made conciliatory gestures recently toward India, and formally sought dates for the resumption of talks between top diplomats and bureaucrats of the two countries. Mr. Sharif is expected to meet the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, in September in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Indian officials described the bloodshed as happening in a mountainous outpost along the Line of Control, the disputed border area.
“It happened last night. There are fatal casualties on Indian side. One of our post was attacked in Poonch area,” said S.N. Acharya, a spokesman for the Indian Army in the Jammu area of Indian-administered Kashmir. Poonch is a mountainous district around 200 kilometers, or 124 miles, from Srinagar, the summer capital and the largest city in the Indian-administered-Kashmir.
The lower and upper houses of the Indian Parliament were adjourned for several hours after a noisy clamor by lawmakers over the reported killings of Indian soldiers. On Rajya Sabha TV, the official network of the upper house of the Indian Parliament, the lawmakers competed to make themselves heard and demanded that the defense minister make a statement.
“We need answers for some serious questions,” Ravishankar Prasad, a member of the upper house and a spokesman for the Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata, said in Parliament. “How many Indian soldiers will be sacrificed?”
Pakistani officials categorically denied any responsibility for the killings and even disputed that they occurred.
“No such incident took place,” said a senior security official, who declined to be identified by name. “There has been no-cross border violation from our side.”
India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control, the mountainous border that stretches 740 kilometers, in November 2003. Before the ceasefire was signed, the Indian and Pakistani armies routinely shelled each other’s positions and the hundreds of the civilian villages along the Line of Control.
India’s defense minister, A.K. Antony, addressed the Indian Parliament late Tuesday afternoon on the soldiers’ deaths on the disputed border.
“There have been 57 violations of ceasefire this year ,” Mr. Antony said. “The government of India has lodged strong protest with the government of Pakistan,” he added.
Since the eruption of a separatist insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1990, the Line of Control has been used by Kashmiri and Pakistani militants to enter Indian-controlled Kashmir. India put up fencing along 550 kilometers of the Line of Control to prevent the infiltration.
“These incidents don’t help efforts to normalize or even improve relations with Pak & call in to question the Pak Govt’s recent overtures,” said Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Indian-administered-Kashmir, on the social networking site Twitter.
The ceasefire has been mostly honored by the Indian and Pakistani armies and has been one of the most significant initiatives of India-Pakistan diplomacy in the past two decades. Person-to-person contacts, official and back-channels talks also followed between the two countries to resolve their long and complicated disputes.
“It is important for both India and Pakistan to preserve the gains of a successful ceasefire,” said Srinath Raghavan, Senior Fellow at Center for Policy Research and author of “War and Peace in Modern India,” a history of India’s wars with Pakistan.
The last skirmish between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control occurred in January, when Pakistani troops killed two Indian soldiers. One of the two soldiers was beheaded. Indian troops retaliated by killing three Pakistani soldiers. Yet compared to the violent 1990s, when killings on the Line of Control were frequent, the disputed border remains mostly peaceful.
“India has the strength, the Indian army has the strength, and the Indian Parliament has the strength to send a reply to Pakistan in the language it understands,” Yashwant Sinha, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, said Tuesday afternoon in the Indian Parliament.
Sanjay Raut, a leader of the militant Hindu party, Shiv Sena, told a news conference Tuesday morning that the Indian Army should retaliate and kill 50 Pakistanis.
“Incidents like this have to be taken up at political and diplomatic level. It is a serious escalation and such attacks must be prevented,” Mr. Raghavan said. He cautioned against the rhetoric of retaliatory attacks. “If we escalate the situation and the ceasefire goes, India and Pakistan will have to go back to a scenario that would be much worse,” Mr. Raghavan said.
Despite the attack, some in Pakistan said that it was unlikely to upset warming ties.
“Nawaz Sharif is firmly committed to improving ties with India. He is keen on renewing the peace process and expanding the economic ties between the two countries,” said Raza Rumi, director of Jinnah Institute, a public policy think-tank in Islamabad. “Sharif also sees better ties with India leading to a reduction of militarism in Pakistan. Incidents like the one on the border or the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul again point toward nonstate actors that need to be controlled,” Mr. Rumi said.
Lal Din, 60, a farmer from Gowhalan village on the Line of Control in the Uri area of Indian-administered Kashmir, noted that tensions had lessened recently.
“Before the ceasefire, it was a very dangerous place to live. Several houses in my village were destroyed in shelling and some villagers were killed,” Mr. Din said in a phone interview from his village.
Hundreds of border villages, like his, have seen an era of relative peace since November 2003. He said the fence meant that “no militants are crossing from Pakistan anymore here.”
“There have been no killings for ten years,” he said, “and neither the Indians nor the Pakistanis have fired mortar shells in a long time near my village.”
“It is quite safe and peaceful now,” he added. “I hope it stays like that.”
Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan, and Hari Kumar contributed from New Delhi.