New Delhi: Even as India and Pakistan are trying to defuse tensions through diplomatic channels over the killing of soldiers on both sides, Pakistan has claimed that one of its soldiers was killed in an unprovoked firing on Thursday.
News agency AFP, citing Pakistan military officials, reported that Pakistan army soldier havildar Mohyuddin was killed in firing by Indian troops at Hotspring sector in Battal area of the Himalaya region.
This is the third such incident in the past five days, which have left two soldiers dead on each side.
Tensions between the neighbours, who have fought four wars since independence, started after Pakistan accused Indian troopers of crossing the Line of Control (LoC) and killing one of its soldiers in Uri sector on 6 January. India denied the allegation and blamed Pakistan of transgressing the LoC in Kashmir, which divides the disputed region into Indian and Pakistan administered parts, on 8 January. India alleged that regular troops of the Pakistani army killed two of its soldiers and mutilated their bodies in Mendhar area of Jammu and Kashmir.
The United Nations (UN) has urged both the nuclear-armed countries to reduce tension. Pakistan has lodged a formal complaint with the UN asking it to probe the incident, but India has rejected the demand.
“We are certainly not going to agree to internationalise the issue or allow the United Nations to hold an enquiry. That demand is obviously rejected out of hand,” Indian finance minister P. Chidambaram said.
As the verbal exchange continued through the day, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said India has no plans to go back on the recently inked liberalized visa agreement between the two countries.
The agreement is one of the key confidence-building measures between the two countries. India had suspended dialogue with Pakistan following the attacks on Mumbai four years ago by 10 gunmen from Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
Shinde said Hafeez Saeed, chief of LeT and reportedly the mastermind of the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, was in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir a few days before the incident and had spoken to people there. The home minister, however, refused to be drawn on whether non-state actors were behind the killing of the two Indian soldiers.
National security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon said the number of violations of the India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement have increased as have attempts to infiltrate Islamic insurgents into Indian-Kashmir. The agreement has been in place since 2003.
Menon said the killing of the two Indian soldiers and the beheading of one of them was not the first such attack by Pakistan on Indian troops patrolling the LoC. India said shelling and firing from Pakistan occur to aid Islamist militants cross into Indian-Kashmir, which is battling an insurgency that India says is helped on by Pakistan.
“There has been an increase in ceasefire violations. There has been an increase in infiltration attempts not only in the last few months. In 2012, there was an increase (in infiltration) over 2011 and that’s a fact,” Menon said.
Pakistan said the ceasefire violations along the LoC would not be a setback to or derail the peace process with India. “You asked whether this will set back or derail the (peace) process. I will hope not and I (do not) see it derailing or setting back the process,” Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters in Islamabad.
In India, the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is planning to politicize the issue by holding a nationwide protest on Friday. The BJP asked the Union government to take strong action against Pakistan and announced its unconditional support.
PTI contributed to this story.