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by AFP

Rouf Bhat—AFP

Pakistani, Indian military commanders slam cross-border firing in telephone call

Indian and Pakistani military commanders fired off heated accusations on Monday in a rare telephone conversation between the neighboring nations over repeated cross-border firing in disputed Kashmir.

During the call initiated by Islamabad on a hotline, Pakistan’s director-general of military operations lambasted his Indian counterpart for targeting “innocent civilians” near the Line of Control (LoC)—the de facto border dividing the region.

“Indian troops are deliberately targeting innocent civilians including children… such deliberate actions are of serious concern and a violation of the 2003 agreement,” said Major-General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, according to a statement.

India responded with a volley of its own accusations, saying Pakistan continues to send militants across the LoC to target Indian troops and places civilians near its military installations to aid insurgents. “Lt. Gen. A.K. Bhatt emphatically stated that retaliatory firing by Indian troops has only been carried out in response to unabated support given by Pak Army to armed terrorists who infiltrate across the border and target Indian Army posts with heavy caliber weapons,” said a statement released by the Indian side.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947, but both claim the territory in full. The neighbors regularly exchange fire across the border despite signing a ceasefire in 2003.

Tensions reached dangerous levels following a militant attack on an Indian military base in September 2016, with each side blaming the other for cross-border raids. There have since been continued outbreaks of firing across the heavily militarized frontier, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries including to civilians.

New Delhi repeatedly accuses Pakistan of initiating firing to help insurgents cross into India-administered Kashmir to attack its forces. Islamabad says it only provides diplomatic support to the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination.

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