UN offers mediation as Pakistan, India exchange fresh fire

UN chief calls upon Pakistan and India to address their outstanding issues, including disputes over Kashmir, peacefully through diplomacy and dialogue.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Indian army soldiers keep guard on top of a shop along a highway on the outskirts of Srinagar, September 29, 2016.

Updated Oct 1, 2016

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered to mediate between Pakistan and India as both nuclear-armed countries exchanged fresh fire along the disputed Kashmir border on Saturday.

"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over the significant increase in tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the recent developments, in particular the reported cease-fire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) following an attack on an Indian army base in Uri on September 18," a statement issued by Ban's spokesperson said.

It said the Secretary-General urged both sides to exercise maximum restraint and take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation.

He called upon Pakistan and India to address their outstanding issues, including the disputes over Kashmir, peacefully through diplomacy and dialogue.

“His good offices are available, if accepted by both sides.”

On Saturday morning, Pakistan and India exchanged fresh fire across the Kashmir border.

"Pakistani troops befittingly responded to Indian unprovoked firing which started at 4:00 am (2300 GMT) and continued for four hours in Bhimber sector on the Pakistani side of the border,” a Pakistani military statement said.

It did not mention any casualties.

A top civilian official, Pawan Kotwal, in Indian-administered Kashmir also said that there was small arms fire and mortar shells were fired from across the border in the Akhnoor sector.

Earlier, more than 10,000 villagers living near the Pakistani border have been evacuated by India amid concerns over a potential military escalation after its special forces launched a cross-border operation against suspected militants. 

The decision to evacuate was made as India reported that it had launched “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control into Pakistan-ruled Kashmir against suspected militants preparing to carry out attacks in India. 

Indian officials said the number of militants killed by troops were in the double digits and that its soldiers had returned safely to base before dawn. 

India said on Thursday it carried out “surgical strikes” on militants preparing to infiltrate from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

"Our top priority is to move women and children to government buildings, guest houses and marriage halls," said Nirmal Singh, deputy chief minister of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

"People who have not been able to migrate were instructed not to venture out of their houses early in the morning or late in the night."

Villagers sit inside a relief camp after they evacuated their village near the border with Pakistan in Ranbir Singh Pora, southwest of Jammu, September 30, 2016

Hundreds of villages were being cleared along a 15 km strip that runs along the border in the lowland region of Jammu and near the Line of Control further north in the mountains of Kashmir.

Villagers load their belongings onto a tractor trolley to move to a safer place, in the Pul Kanjari village, near the Wagah border in Punjab, India, September 30, 2016

Pakistan has “completely rejected” India’s claim that they have sent special forces to kill suspected militants with Pakistani media saying that 'absolutely no surgical strikes' have been carried out

Television news channels and newspapers reported only small arms and mortar fire, a relatively routine occurrence on the de facto border.

“The Cabinet joined the Prime Minister in completely rejecting the Indian claims of carrying out ‘surgical strikes’,” Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office said in a statement issued after a cabinet meeting on Friday.

The statement added that the country was ready “to counter any aggressive Indian designs.” 

A masked Kashmiri protester prepares to throw a brick at an Indian policeman during a protest in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, July 9, 2016.

Domestic pressure had been building on Modi to retaliate after 19 soldiers were killed in a September 18 attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir that India blames on infiltrators who crossed from Pakistani territory.

Modi's government has been struggling to contain protests on the streets of Kashmir where more than 80 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded in the last 10 weeks after a young separatist militant was killed by Indian forces.

TRTWorld and agencies