Pakistan soldier in Kashmir 'killed by Indian troops'

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Indian soldier near Line of Control in disputed Kashmir (9 January)Image source, AP
Image caption,
Kashmir has been a flashpoint for more than 60 years

A Pakistani soldier has been killed by "unprovoked" firing by Indian troops near the Line of Control that divides the disputed territory of Kashmir, Pakistan's military says.

However, an Indian army spokesman said it was responding to Pakistani fire.

It is the third such incident in five days, following the deaths of two Indian soldiers on Tuesday and a Pakistani soldier on Sunday.

Claimed by both countries, Kashmir has been a flashpoint for over 60 years.

The United States on Wednesday urged the nuclear-armed rivals to ease tension in the area.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says the Pakistani and Indian governments have been trying to strike a balance between appearing firm and de-escalating what is fast developing into the worst crisis in relations since the Mumbai attacks of 2008.

'Unwholesome event'

The Pakistani army said the Indian attack took place on Thursday afternoon as the soldier, Havildar Mohyuddin, was manning a post in the Battal sector of Kashmir.

An Indian army spokesman, Col RK Palta, said India was responding after Pakistani troops had fired on its positions.

Also on Thursday, two Indian newspapers suggested the Indian army may have provoked recent fatal clashes in the Kashmir region.

The reports say commanders breached a ceasefire accord by ordering new observation posts on the Line of Control after a 70-year-old woman crossed it unhindered last year.

Pakistan reportedly used a tannoy system to express its opposition and then fired across the border.

One Indian newspaper said an Indian commander had ordered a counter-attack on Sunday that led to a Pakistani soldier being killed.

Two Indian soldiers were then killed in a Pakistani border attack on Tuesday morning. India responded to reports that the bodies had been mutilated by condemning Pakistan's actions as "barbaric" and "inhuman".

Pakistan denies Indian accounts of what happened, and the Indian army has denied any provocative actions.

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on Wednesday: "We cannot and must not allow escalation of this very unwholesome event that has taken place."

On Thursday, his Pakistani counterpart, Hina Rabbani Khar, welcomed the comments, saying: "There was, I believe, a sense of trying to de-escalate on their side... and I think that is the right way to go."

Exchanges in the disputed area are not uncommon but rarely result in fatalities.

There has been a ceasefire in Kashmir since late 2003.

India suspended a peace process with Pakistan following attacks by Pakistan-based militants in Mumbai in 2008. Negotiations resumed in February last year.

Thousands of people have been killed in Indian-administered Kashmir since an armed revolt against Indian rule erupted in 1989.

Last month, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to ease visa restrictions on travel for some citizens.