By Aoun Sahi and Shashank Bengali, Los Angeles Times
ISLAMABAD — Senior Indian and Pakistani military officials on Tuesday held their first official discussions since violence erupted along their disputed border last week, resulting in 20 deaths.
Pakistan’s director of military operations and his Indian counterpart used a regularly scheduled hotline call to discuss tensions along the boundary in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, according to Pakistani military sources who declined to discuss details of the conversation.
“Our military official conveyed Pakistan’s concerns to the Indian side,” one Pakistani official said, requesting anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the talks.
The phone call contributed to a sense that the crisis along the so-called Line of Control was easing on a day that neither side reported new violence. Each nation blames the other for unprovoked cross-border attacks on Oct. 5, sending thousands of villagers fleeing artillery rounds, mortar shells and machine gun fire.
Pakistan has accused India of committing 50 violations of a decade-long ceasefire this month and of targeting civilians in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, a charge that India dismissed.
The mountainous region is divided between the two countries along the Line of Control, but claimed in its entirety by both. The clashes last week marked one of the most significant flare-ups in the long-running border war since a 2003 cease-fire.
On Monday, Pakistan sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accusing India of “deliberate and unprovoked violations of the cease-fire agreement” and asking the U.N. to intervene in the crisis. India on Tuesday rejected the letter as a ploy and said that there was “no place for third parties” in resolving the border dispute.
“India will not accept violence on the border or the Line of Control, or continued terrorism against our citizens,” foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters in New Delhi. “It is up to Pakistan to de-escalate the situation.”
Indian security forces would “respond appropriately to any attempts by Pakistan to undermine peace and tranquillity,” Akbaruddin said.
The election of a new government in New Delhi this year, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had raised hopes of a fresh start in India-Pakistan relations. But Modi’s government called off bilateral talks scheduled for August after a senior Pakistani diplomat held meetings with Indian Kashmiri separatists, accusing Islamabad of interfering in its domestic affairs.
Pakistan’s national security advisor, Sartaj Aziz, said the Indian military’s cross-border firing had also caused extensive injuries and property damage and distracted from the Pakistani army’s ongoing counter-terrorism operation in the restive North Waziristan tribal region.
AFP Photo/A Majeed
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