Pakistan said Saturday that “unprovoked” cross-border shelling by India had killed at least two civilians and “critically” injured another inside the Pakistan-administered part of the disputed Kashmir region.
The alleged incident comes more than two years after the nuclear-armed rival South Asian nations agreed to fully adhere to a 2003 cease-fire along their de facto Kashmir frontier, the Line of Control.
A Pakistani military statement said the Indian army Saturday “opened indiscriminate fire onto a group of shepherds in the Sattwal sector,” resulting in the death of two civilians while another was “critically” injured.
“While a strong protest is being launched with (the) Indian side, Pakistan reserves the right to respond back in the manner of its choosing to protect Kashmiri lives in the LoC belt,” the statement warned.
The foreign ministry said later that it had summoned the Indian Charge d’Affaires to register Islamabad’s “strong protest over the cease-fire violation” and condemn the “deplorable” targeting of civilians. Pakistan called on the Indian side to investigate the deadly incident and underscored that “such senseless acts are in clear violation” of the cease-fire deal, according to the statement.
There was no immediate reaction from India to the allegations.
The February 2021 truce effectively stopped almost daily skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops that killed more than 70 people in 2020 alone.
The Himalayan region of Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India. Both claim all of it and have fought two wars over the area since the two counties gained independence from Britain in 1947.
New Delhi accuses the Pakistani military of backing militant attacks in India and separatists fighting Indian rule in the majority Muslim Kashmir. Islamabad rejects the accusations as an attempt to divert attention from what it says is Indian suppression of Kashmiris.
“Driven by a newfound geopolitical patronage, Indian forces have embarked on a plan to take innocent lives to satiate their false narratives and concocted allegations,” the Pakistani military asserted in its statement Saturday.
The remarks were targeted at a joint statement issued Thursday after talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House, calling on Pakistan to ensure its territory is not used as a base for militant attacks.
“They (Biden and Modi) strongly condemned cross-border terrorism, the use of terrorist proxies and called on Pakistan to take immediate action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks,” said the U.S.-Indian joint statement.
On Friday, the Pakistani foreign ministry, in its formal response, called the joint statement “unwarranted, one-sided and misleading.” The reference to Islamabad was “politically motivated” and “contrary to “diplomatic norms,” it added.
The ministry said that India was using the allegations of extremism against Pakistan to deflect from the situation in Kashmir and the treatment of Indian minorities.
Bilateral tensions have worsened since August 2019 when Modi’s Hindu nationalist government revoked the semiautonomous status of its administered Kashmir and broke it into two federally controlled territories.
Pakistan denounces the moves as illegal and wants them reversed.