Two Indian Army jawans and a woman were killed and 11 people were injured Saturday as Pakistani forces targeted many villages and security outposts in Jammu and Kashmir, forcing more than 1,000 people to leave their homes.
The renewal of hostilities raised temperatures on both sides of the border. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj asked Pakistan to adhere to the mechanisms evolved to ensure peace along the border as well as the Line of Control.
The Pakistani side vowed to “pay back India in its own coin”. “We will now speak to them in a language they understand,” defence minister Khwaja Asif said in Islamabad.
The two jawans were killed when rocket-propelled grenades fired by Pakistan hit a post in north Kashmir’s Tanghdar area, officials said. A woman, Tori Devi, was killed in a Samba village on Saturday when Pakistan Rangers rained down mortar bombs.
“Pakistan started unprovoked and heavy firing and mortar shelling on our posts and civilian areas along the international border in Samba and Kathua districts. Firing started around 9:30pm Friday and continued the whole night,” said Rakesh Sharma, inspector general of BSF (Jammu frontiers).
Three Pakistan Rangers were also killed in retaliatory firing by the BSF, officials added.
In a letter to Pakistan PM’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz, foreign minister Swaraj dismissed allegation that Indian side had killed two Pakistan Rangers after calling them for a meeting on the border.
She said sniper fire on a BSF patrol party from a Pakistan post on December 31 had left one Indian security personnel dead and seriously injured another.
Pakistani commanders responded to Indian defensive fire by escalating matters by using higher calibre weapons, expanding the zone of conflict and targeting civilian habitations, she said.
Earlier in the day, home minister Rajnath Singh accused Pakistan of violating the ceasefire agreement. “We are stretching our hands for friendship… we don’t understand why the ceasefire is violated by Pakistan,” he said.
"We made a beginning by inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi..."
Singh added India wanted good ties with all neighbouring countries, including Pakistan.
BSF officials said Pakistani troops were providing cover fire to infiltrators trying to cross into India and Friday’s exchange began when Indian soldiers fired at two infiltrators who had reached the border fence.
“Pakistan is desperate to push in terrorists and is firing along the border to provide them cover fire. However, we are now responding in a heavy manner,” a BSF official said.
In November, infiltrators killed eight people, including five civilians, at Arnia near the Ramgarh sector.
Tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours escalated when Pakistani troops fired at a BSF patrolling party on New Year’s eve, killing one jawan. Four Pakistan Rangers men were killed in retaliatory firing by the BSF.
Kathua deputy commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said about 300 people had been shifted to safer places and relief camps. At Samba, about 1,000 people have been shifted to a temple along the Jammu-Pathankot national highway.
About 19 people, including five jawans, have been killed and thousands displaced in shelling since last year, when 550 incidents of firing were reported, the highest since 2003 after a ceasefire agreement was signed by the two nations.
The fresh ceasefire violations came barely two months after 13 people died and 32,000 border residents were displaced due to cross-border firing in August and October.
(With inputs from Imtiaz Ahmed)