x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Delhi says its restraint against Pakistan in Kashmir is weakening

India said yesterday it was running out of patience with Pakistan-backed transgressions in Kashmir as cross-border firing spread further north for the first time since the two armies agreed on a ceasefire in 2003.

NEW DELHI // India said yesterday it was running out of patience with Pakistan-backed transgressions in Kashmir as cross-border firing spread further north for the first time since the two armies agreed on a ceasefire in 2003.

Tension has been high along one of the world's most militarised borders in Kashmir since August 6 when five Indian soldiers were ambushed and killed while on a patrol.

The Indian defence minister, AK Antony, said it was clear that Pakistani army troops were involved in the attack on the soldiers whose deaths triggered criticism that the government's posture towards its neighbour had been too soft.

Mr Antony demanded that Pakistan act against its troops involved in the latest incident as well as the killing of two soldiers in January, one of whom was decapitated.

"Naturally, this incident will have consequences on our behaviour on the Line of Control and for our relations with Pakistan," Mr Antony said, in reference to the de facto border between the two countries in the Kashmir region. "Our restraint should not be taken for granted."

Pakistan has denied involvement and instead accused India of opening fire and killing one of its soldiers late last month.

It said that shooting occurred at the same time that police in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir said four civilians foraging near the Line of Control had gone missing, and their families believed they had been arrested by the Indian army.

The rhetoric in India has steadily mounted and, with the Congress-led coalition government facing a difficult election within a year, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has been criticised by opposition hardliners - and even from within his party - for trying to quietly relaunch peace talks with Pakistan.

On Sunday, the two armies exchanged fire along the Kargil stretch of the mountains where the ceasefire has held since November 2003.

"The firing continued for half an hour, however, there was no loss of life or damage," said a police officer on the Indian side of Kashmir.

The two armies fought an undeclared war in Kargil in 1999 after Pakistani army-backed irregulars crossed the Line of Control, prompting India to retaliate. The two countries have fought three wars since 1947.

Indian army officials said the latest attack was carried out by Pakistan's Border Action Team (Bat). The unit includes members of Pakistan's commando Special Services Group and irregular forces, including members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group.

"Pakistan is making a serious mistake with regard to ceasefire and Bat attacks. It should not do it. It is not going to deter us. The army is here to respond in each and every act of Pakistan," said the army division commander of the border-side Rajouri sector, Maj Gen VP Singh.

So far, the two armies have only exchanged small-arms fire.