Kashmir: India and Pakistan warn each other over attacks

Image source, AP
Image caption,
At least 19 people have been killed in the past week's attacks, officials say

India and Pakistan have traded warnings over a surge in violence in Kashmir which has killed at least 19 people.

Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said his country would "respond befittingly to Indian aggression" but it did not want confrontation.

His Indian counterpart, Arun Jaitley, had earlier said Pakistan would be made to pay an "unaffordable" price if it persisted with "adventurism".

Each side accuses the other of starting hostilities which broke out a week ago.

Exchanges in the disputed area are not uncommon but rarely result in fatalities - the violence is some of the worst in a decade.

Of the 19 civilians killed since fighting began last Friday, 11 are on the Pakistani side while eight are on the Indian side.

Media caption,
Sanjoy Majumder meets a woman who lost four members of her family during shelling in Indian administered Kashmir

"We do not want the situation on the borders of two nuclear neighbours to escalate into confrontation," the Pakistani Defence Ministry said in a statement. "India must demonstrate caution and behave with responsibility."

A ceasefire agreed in 2003 remains in place, but the nuclear-armed neighbours often accuse each other of violating it.


Media caption,
Shaimaa Khalil reports from the Pakistani side of the border as violence there escalates to the worst level in years

Both sides continued to exchange fire overnight on Wednesday, and Indian officials said eight people, including three soldiers, had sustained "minor injuries".

"If Pakistan persists with this adventurism, our forces will make the cost of this adventurism unaffordable for it," Mr Jaitley told reporters in Delhi. "Pakistan should stop this unprovoked firing and shelling if it wants peace on the border."

Asked about the reasons for the surge in violence, Mr Jaitley said it "is an effort [by Pakistan] to precipitate tension for both domestic and international reasons", without giving more details. He said Pakistani fire was to provide cover for Pakistan-based militants to cross into Indian-held territory.

The head of the Pakistani forces patrolling the frontier, Maj-Gen Khan Javed Khan, told the BBC that the Indian attacks were the most intense in decades.

"I just want to know the reason from the other side. We are not finding the answer," he said. "But if they continue to fire, they will continue to see a major response from us."

He told Reuters news agency that India had fired 20,000 shells this year, compared with 200 in 2012. There was no way of verifying the figure.

The latest round of hostilities comes just months after India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration.

But relations have deteriorated since then.

In August, India cancelled talks with Pakistan after accusing it of interfering in its internal affairs.

And last month, Mr Modi, in his first speech at the UN, said he wanted peace talks with Pakistan but insisted it must create an "appropriate atmosphere".

Tensions between the two sides have not been as high since 2013 when months of clashes left more than 20 Indian and Pakistani soldiers dead. Nearly as many civilians, most of them on the Pakistani side, were also killed.