Dividing Line 'calm'
19 January 2005
Jammu: The dividing line in Kashmir between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan was calm yesterday as New Delhi charged that mortar fire from Pakistan had violated a 14-month truce. The Indian army 'is on alert', said Colonel R.K. Sen, spokesman for the Indian army's Northern Command in Kashmir. Indian army field reports said there had been no firing along the Line of Control, the boundary separating Indian and Pakistani armies in divided Kashmir, since mortar bombs crashed on Tuesday evening into a sector around Poonch. Poonch lies 245km northwest of Jammu, winter capital of Indian Kashmir, where a revolt against New Delhi's rule has raged since 1989. Col Sen pointed out that Indian forces had not retaliated, 'because we did not want the peace process under way to be jeopardised'. The South Asian rivals have fought two of their three wars over mainly Muslim Kashmir and nearly went to war again over the region in 2002. The two sides have been engaged in formal peace talks since January 2004. Pakistan denied violating the cease-fire. 'No one from Pakistan has fired and there is no cease-fire violation by Pakistan,' Pakistani military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan said in Islamabad. But the Indian colonel insisted that 'the splinter scars on some of our posts bear ample testimony that Pakistani troops fired 16 mortar shells'. Asked if the mortar shells could have been fired by insurgents, he replied, 'during the last 15 years we have not found any incident in which militants fired shells from 82mm mortars. There could have been major damage to our posts and casualty to our forces,' he said. Until the truce began in November 2003 as part of a fragile peace process, Indian and Pakistani forces routinely exchanged fire, killing troops and civilians on both sides, damaging homes and driving people from border areas. The colonel's comments emerged as Indian and Pakistani military commanders spoke by telephone in an effort to ease tensions. 'We would like to use restraint,' said deputy Indian army chief Lieutenant-General Bhupinder Singh Thakur. 'We hope that the Pakistani government will consider this case with all seriousness,' Lt-Gen Singh Thakur said.