Pakistan, India seek to ease tension over Kashmir

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm •  Published: January 12, 2013
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But the clashes along the mountainous Kashmir border over the last week highlight how easily simmering tension can flare into conflict. The biggest risk remains an attack by militants like the one in Mumbai that would likely torpedo the reconciliation process once again.

G. Parthasarthy, a former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, said he doesn't believe the situation will escalate, but cautioned that the environment remains precarious, especially since India is worried about increased infiltration by Pakistani militants in Kashmir.

"It depends on how things play out," said Parthasarthy. "If infiltration continues, if our forces on the border remain edgy, who knows?"

Pakistan and India struck a cease-fire agreement over Kashmir in November 2003. There have been periodic violations of the cease-fire, but the incidents during the past week have been the most serious.

The tit-for-tat fighting began on Jan. 6 when Pakistan accused Indian troops of raiding an army post and killing one of its soldiers.

India denied raiding the post. It said its troops fired across the border in response to Pakistani shelling that destroyed a home on the Indian side.

On Jan. 8, India claimed Pakistani soldiers, taking advantage of heavy fog, crossed the border and killed two Indian soldiers and beheaded one of them. The reported decapitation raised suspicions among some that militants might have been involved.

Pakistan denied the allegations and suggested U.N. monitors in the region conduct an inquiry — a call that India rejected, saying it didn't want to internationalize the issue.

Then on Jan. 10, Pakistan said Indian troops fired across the border and killed another one of its soldiers. The Pakistani army said the shooting was unprovoked, while the Indian military said its troops were responding to fire from across the frontier.

Both countries condemned the violence and summoned senior diplomats to stage official protests. But senior officials stressed the clashes should not derail reconciliation. The countries took recent steps to ease cross-border travel and are working on increasing trade.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said Thursday that she wants to continue down the track of "trust building" and "normalizing the region."

Her Indian counterpart, Salman Khurshid, called the decapitation of the Indian soldier "extremely shocking" on Thursday, but also said he believes "whoever has tried to derail a wholesome peace process shouldn't succeed."

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Hussain reported from Srinagar, India. Associated Press writers Muneeza Naqvi and Tim Sullivan in New Delhi and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.