Pakistani mortars continued to pound villages along the Jammu border for a second straight day on Tuesday as they targeted 40 Border Security Force (BSF) posts in the region, wounding six civilians and forcing thousands of people to leave their homes.
BSF officials said Indian forces retaliated with gunfire and mortar bombs after Pakistan Rangers widened the range of their attacks to Poonch, Kanachak, Pargwal, Arnia, Akhnoor and RS Pura sectors, a day after mortar bombs killed five civilians and wounded 29 in the highest civilian death toll in a single day in more than a decade.
“Pakistan targeted 40 of our posts in RS Pura and Akhnoor sector without provocation,” said the BSF inspector general in Jammu, Rajesh Sharma. “We were then forced to fire back in equally strong measure.”
Media reports said the Indian and Pakistani DGMOs held talks on ceasefire violations and accused each other of violating the ceasefire.
India and Pakistan have been trading fire for about a week, straining India-Pakistan relations which hit a low after New Delhi called off foreign secretary-level talks in August following the Pakistani high commissioner’s meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders.
This year has been particularly volatile along the border and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, which is due for assembly polls as Pakistan typically ratchets up border tensions every time the state holds elections.
Pakistan registered its protest with the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) over the firing by the Indian military along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
The BSF director general told HT on Tuesday Indian and Pakistani troops will likely continue shelling each other for a few more days, vowing to give a fitting reply in the unexpected flare-up that has so far claimed 18 lives on both sides of the border.
Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Pakistan Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, expressed concern over the situation along the Line of Control.
"The Indian government has not been able to restrain its forces despite strong diplomatic protest by Pakistan," he said. "We call upon the Indian government to immediately cease fire and shelling and help us preserve tranquility," he said in a statement.
Aziz said the Pakistani government has been exercising "utmost restraint and responsibility”.
“We also extended a hand of friendship to India. However, with abrupt cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks, the Indian side has shunned all our peace overtures. We hope that the Indian side would give peace a chance," he said.
BSF sources said Pakistan was deliberately targeting Arnia town, which is about three kilometres from the border, to inflict maximum civilian causalities.
“Pakistan is firing about 1.5 km from behind the fence for effective firing. It’s also being done to move away from our radar of observation along the fence. The firing during the night is also the reason for it,” said a BSF official.
Home minister Rajnath Singh has urged Pakistan to stop violating the ceasefire attacks if it wants peace talks with India.
“We will not tolerate such acts of border violations. We are for peaceful relationship but not at the cost of security to our civilians,” Singh told HT on Monday.