Praveen Swami

Worst fighting since ceasefire went into place in 2003

NEW DELHI: Four Pakistani troops and an Indian soldier were reported killed in a skirmish on the Line of Control on Monday, in the most serious fighting between the two armies since a ceasefire went into force in 2003.

An Indian Army spokesperson said the fighting began after 15 Pakistani troops, waving a white flag, signalled they wished to parley with soldiers at an Indian post near the border town of Handwara. Pakistani troops apparently called for the parley to protest against the construction of new Indian Army fortifications close to Eagle Post, on the LoC.

Under circumstances that are unclear, Army sources said, the parley degenerated into an abusive exchange. Pakistani troops opened fire at Eagle Post at about 3 p.m., killing a soldier of the 22 Rajput Regiment. Although independent confirmation was not available, four Pakistani soldiers were reported killed in Indian retaliatory firing. However, Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told journalists in Islamabad he had no information on the fighting.

The still-unidentified 22 Rajput soldier, whose identity was withheld until his family could be notified, is the third Indian fatality in intermittent skirmishes which have erupted along the LoC since January. Border Security Force Head Constable Bhanwar Lal was killed in the Rajouri sector earlier this month, while the 8 Gurkha Rifles’ Jawashwar Lami Chhame was killed when jihadists shelled an Indian forward post in Poonch in May.

Calibrated effort

Over a dozen clashes have taken place this year, in what Indian strategists believe is a calibrated Pakistan Army effort to ratchet-up tensions on the LoC and thus justify pulling out troops from its unsuccessful counter-terrorism operations in the North West Frontier Province. Much of the fighting has taken place along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch, but a clash was also reported from Tangdhar.

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