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Pakistan accuses India of shelling, killing man

Posted: August 12, 2013 8:25 a.m.
Updated: August 12, 2013 8:25 a.m.
 

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan accused Indian troops of shelling its territory along the disputed Kashmir border on Monday and killing a civilian, the latest in a series of allegations of cross-border attacks made by both sides over the past week.

The resumption of violence along the border threatens to sabotage recent overtures by the two countries aimed at resuming peace talks and increasing the flow of cross-border trade.

Pakistan and India have long been enemies and have fought three major wars since both countries gained independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over control of Kashmir.

A Pakistani military official accused Indian troops of "unprovoked firing" in the early morning hours Monday in three sectors along the Kashmir border: Battal, Chirikot and Satwal.

A civilian named Muhammad Zubair was killed by the shelling, the official said.

A senior Indian army commander said Indian troops were responding to unprovoked firing from Pakistan and targeted military posts, not civilian areas. The firing from Pakistan started last night and continued through the night in two places, the commander said. He accused Pakistan of violating a 2003 cease-fire agreement in Kashmir multiple times over the past four days.

The Pakistani and Indian officials both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry summoned India's deputy high commissioner in Islamabad to protest the incident and called on the country to uphold the 2003 cease-fire agreement, the ministry said in a statement.

"Pakistan is committed to a constructive, sustained and result-oriented process of engagement with India and believes that serious efforts need to be made in maintaining a positive atmosphere and avoid negative propaganda," the ministry said.

The mountainous Kashmir region is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed in its entirety by both.

India directly accused Pakistani soldiers and militants of crossing into its portion of Kashmir last Tuesday and killing five Indian soldiers. The Indian defense minister, A.K. Antony, has demanded those involved be punished.

Pakistan has denied its soldiers killed any Indian troops and accused Indian soldiers of severely wounding a Pakistani citizen along the border last Thursday. India has denied the allegation.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his concern about the incidents last week and said both sides should make sure the situation doesn't escalate. He came to power in June with the intention of improving relations with India. Sharif is especially interested in boosting trade, which Pakistan desperately needs to bolster its stuttering economy.

But analysts are worried that the latest violence could give ammunition to hawks on both sides to sabotage any moves toward normalizing relations.

Pakistani Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar said Monday that the government was not currently considering granting most favored nation trading status for India, despite hope that Sharif would move quickly on the issue once in office.

Pakistan announced in 2011 that it would grant India most favored nation trading status, something India did in 1996. But domestic pressure from businesses worried about competition prevented the previous government from following through. Now it appears that tension with India could be causing the current government to also put on the brakes.

"Most favored nation status is not under immediate consideration," Dar told Pakistan's GEO TV in an interview.

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