India terms Pakistan border clashes ‘serious and provocative’

  • Defence Minister Arun Jaitley says clashes ‘creating an environment which is not very conducive for relationship between the two countries’


India on Saturday branded a string of ceasefire violations along its frontier with rival Pakistan as “serious” and “provocative” and said they were hindering better ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

On Saturday, a soldier died in Indian-held Kashmir in a clash with suspected militants near the heavily militarised Line of Control (LoC), police said.

Indian and Pakistani forces have been engaged in exchanges of fire along the LoC dividing disputed Kashmir as well as along the international border further to the south in recent weeks, resulting in civilian and military deaths on both sides.

The ceasefire violations were “serious and they are provocative,” Defence Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters in New Delhi.

“These incidents are creating an environment which is not very conducive for the relationship between the two countries,” said Jaitley, who is also India’s finance and defence minister.

The two countries have traded blame for the spate of ceasefire violations.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which each administers in part but claims in full. The neighbours have fought two of their three wars since their 1947 independence from Britain over the Muslim-majority region’s control.

Since 1989, fighting between Indian forces and about a dozen rebel groups seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan has left tens of thousands dead, most of them civilians.

Saturday’s clash happened in Kalaroos, northwest of the main city of Srinagar following a series of gun battles in the area since Sunday in which five militants and three Indian soldiers have died.

“One soldier died during an encounter with militants today (Saturday) and another was wounded,” a senior police official said on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the media.

India last week called off high-level talks with Pakistan, scheduled to take place in Islamabad, angry that Pakistani officials met with Kashmiri separatist leaders in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi late Friday accused Pakistan of having made a “spectacle” of India’s efforts to pursue warmer relations. But Modi said he would pursue efforts to mend relations between the neighbours.

Pakistan has described cancellation of the talks as a “setback” for closer relations with India’s new right-wing government.