Pakistani and Indian forces on Wednesday accused each other of fresh ceasefire violations described as among the ‘worst’ since the two archrivals agreed to a truce a decade ago.
“Indian troops [from Border Security Force] resorted to unprovoked firing on the working boundary in Pukhlian, Charpar, Harpal and Charwah sectors near Sialkot,” said a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
The BSF troops used heavy machine guns and also fired mortar shells. The firing continued through Tuesday night until Wednesday, added a senior official of the Chenab Rangers. The unabated firing forced residents in the border villages to flee for safety.
The BSF has targeted 27 Pakistani posts in the same areas during the last two days and fired almost 4,000 mortar shells and 59,000 rounds of machine guns, according to the ISPR statement. “Pakistani troops have effectively responded to Indian firing.”
It added that two civilians and a Rangers soldier have been killed and 26 civilians have been injured during the past two weeks due to Indian firing across the working boundary and the LoC.
Hours earlier, the BSF claimed that one of its soldiers was killed in overnight firing by Pakistani forces on the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed state of Kashmir. BSF spokesman Vinod Sharma told AFP that 50 posts along the LoC were targeted in a further escalation of small arms firing and shelling that has taken place regularly over the last month.
Indian army spokesman Nitin Narhar Joshi told AFP the flare-up is among the worst since 2003, while senior army commanders speaking on condition of anonymity said it was the most serious.
“The situation along the LoC is certainly one of the most serious witnessed since the ceasefire,” Joshi said. “Now it is becoming ever worse with the sanctity of the international border also being severely violated by Pakistan.”
Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde claimed that villagers were fleeing their homes because of unabated firing from Pakistan. A day earlier Shinde took a tour of the LoC, calling Tuesday’s incident “the biggest ceasefire violation ever in recent times”.
Shinde asserted that the issue of ceasefire violations would be taken up with Pakistan at a meeting of the directors general of military operations of the two countries.
However, a Pakistani military official rejected the accusation and blamed Indian forces for the uptick in truce violations. “Pakistan wants to de-escalate the situation. But Indian army appears to be deliberately intensifying it,” added the official, who spoke to The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.
The prime ministers of the two countries agreed last month in New York to work for restoring peace along the LoC by directing their respective armies to sort out the problem.
However, there has been no let-up in ceasefire violations.
“It seems that the Indian army by escalating the LoC tensions is trying to portray that the Pakistan military doesn’t support the civilian leadership as far as relations with India is concerned,” said the military official.
He said that army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has already made it clear that the country’s security establishment would support government efforts to improve ties with India. “But if the Indian army continues to violate the ceasefire, then we cannot sit and wait – we will respond.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2013.