India, Pakistan exchange heavy cross-border fire in Kashmir
Iran Press TV
Sat Aug 17, 2019 03:43PM
India and Pakistan have exchanged "heavy" fire across the militarized de facto border in disputed Kashmir valley, days after New Delhi's decision to scrap the autonomy of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.
Media reports quoting an unnamed senior New Delhi government official said on Saturday that one Indian soldier had been killed in the violent clashes. "The exchange of fire is going on," the official said.
Pakistan has made no immediate comment on the latest round of violence.
On Thursday, Pakistan's military said in a statement that three Pakistani soldiers and five Indian troops had died at the contested border.
The two foes regularly fire potshots over the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed territory.
However, the latest exchange of fire follows a period of high friction between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a surprise executive decree to strip the Indian portion of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of its special status. Modi has claimed that the decision was necessary for Kashmir's economic development and would stop "terrorism."
Fearing an angry and potentially violent response, India dispatched thousands of additional troops to the region, declared a strict curfew, shut down telecommunications and internet services, and arrested political leaders and pro-independence campaigners.
India's decision sparked protests from the local population, outrage from Pakistan and unease from neighboring China.
The Himalayan region is divided between India, which rules the populous Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, Pakistan, which controls a wedge of territory in the west, and China, which holds a thinly populated high-altitude area in the north.
Imran Khan welcomes UN move to discuss Kashmir
In a posting on Twitter on Saturday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said addressing the "suffering of the Kashmiri people & ensuring resolution of the dispute is the responsibility of this world body." He made reference to an initiative by the United Nations Security Council.
"I welcome the UNSC meeting to discuss the serious situation in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir," Khan tweeted after Friday's talks in New York, which is the first to focus on the Himalayan region since 1971.
India's Ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin, however, insists the status of the territory is a purely internal matter.
In a separate development, India on Saturday gradually restored phone lines following an almost two-week communications blackout in its part of Kashmir.
Some people took to the streets on Saturday to buy essential goods but most shops in Srinagar remained closed. Mohammed Altaf Malik, 30, said people remained angry about the stripping of Kashmir's special status "and the way it was done."
"There is widespread corruption and the police here have made it a business to pick up any people it wants and then ask for money to release them from detention," Malik said. "We don't see anything changing from this for ordinary people like us."
In August 1947, the British Raj was dismantled with the subcontinent divided into two independent states, Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Millions were uprooted in one of the largest mass migrations in history, with experts estimating at least one million died in the communal violence unleashed by partition that continues to haunt the subcontinent to this day.
Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.
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