ISLAMABAD – Pakistan says three of its soldiers were killed Thursday in clashes with India across the disputed Kashmir border, known as the Line of Control (LoC), amid increasing tensions between the two nations over the Himalayan region.
A Pakistani army spokesman claimed five Indian soldiers also were killed in retaliatory fire. Major-General Asif Ghafoor said skirmishes were ongoing intermittently.
Indian military officials are reported as denying any of their personnel were killed, but they did confirm three Pakistani forces were killed in “retaliatory action.”
It was not possible to immediately seek confirmation of claims made by both the sides.
Pakistan later summoned the senior most Indian diplomat in Islamabad to the foreign ministry to condemn what an official statement described as “the unprovoked ceasefire violations” by Indian forces in several sectors along the de facto Kashmir border. “The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation,” the statement said.
Pakistan already has expelled the Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, and has suspended all bilateral trade and public transport links in response to India’s recent actions in Kashmir.
Tensions have significantly escalated between the two nuclear-armed rival countries since Aug. 5 when New Delhi abruptly ended semi-autonomous status for the Indian-administered portion of the divided Himalayan region and bifurcated it into two territories to be directly controlled by the federal government.
A massive security crackdown and communications blackout to deter violent reactions to the controversial move have since cut off millions of residents of Kashmir from the rest of the world.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended his decision to strip Kashmir of its special status during a speech Thursday marking India’s independence.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, while denouncing the security lockdown in Kashmir, warned in a tweet Thursday that India’s Hindu-nationalist government could be planning another “Srebrenica-type massacre & ethnic cleansing of Muslims.” Khan referred to the 1995 massacre of thousands of ethnic Muslims, mainly men and boys, during the Bosnian war.
On Wednesday, the Pakistani leader claimed his country possessed “credible information” Indian military forces were planning a major cross-border attack to divert international attention from abuses being inflicted on Kashmiris.
The United Nations Security Council is expected to hold a closed-door meeting Friday to discuss the situation in Kashmir.
Polish ambassador Joanna Wronecka, the council’s president for August, confirmed to VOA on Wednesday that the consultations were requested by China. It will be the first U.N. debate over Kashmir since 1971.
Kashmir has triggered two full scale wars between India and Pakistan since they both gained independence from Britain in 1947, and the territorial dispute remains the primary sources of regional tensions.
Pakistani and Indian militaries routinely accuse each other of firing the first shot across the LoC in violation of a 2002 ceasefire agreement, although both sides privately admit almost daily clashes in recent years have rendered the truce ineffective.