Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged fire in Kashmir on Tuesday, for the second time this week. Soldiers from both countries shot small arms and mortar rounds across their disputed border, while accusing the other side of starting the violence.
Clashes initially started on Monday, quickly spreading to numerous points along the frontier separating Pakistan and the Indian-administered region of Jumma. The fighting reached northern mountainous areas normally monitored by the UN. According to the Indian government, the Pakistani military targeted 40 Indian army posts.
Women in the conflict zone examine damage caused by the fighting. (Photo: AP)
As a result of the violence, tens of thousands of villagers have fled their homes. Many of the displaced people on the Indian side of the border are in government run shelters or underground bunkers. Reports from both sides of the conflict suggest nine civilians, including at least three children, have died as a result of the fighting.
India’s newly elected government, lead by Narendra Modi, didn’t seem too eager to reconcile with its counterpart in Islamabad. “Pakistan should stop ceasefire violations now and understand the reality that times have changed in India,” said Home Minister Rajnath Singh, alluding that Modi’s Hindu Nationalist government would take a harder line on Pakistan than previous governments. Meanwhile in Washington, the State Department urged both sides to engage in dialogue to solve the skirmish.
This week’s fighting seems likely to accelerate the continuing decline in relations between the two powerful South Asian countries. Prime Minister Modi cancelled talks in August following Pakistan’s decision to hold talks with militant separatists from Kashmir. Domestic political factors may also be influencing the situation, as Pakistan’s military seems to have gained power following recent large scale protests in Pakistan’s capital.