New Delhi: India and Pakistan troops exchanged fresh border fire on Monday, hours after top security advisors of the two countries spoke with each other in a bid to reduce escalating tension.
It was for the first time that the two NSAs spoke to each other after the 18 September deadly terror attack at a military base in Jammu and Kashmir.
Defence sources said that Pakistani troops, without provocation, had fired at Indian posts using small arms and mortar shells in Poonch area near the Line of Control (LoC) – the de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries.
The Pakistan Army made similar allegations against the Indian military. Both sides, however, maintained that no damage was caused in the exchange of fire that continued for several hours, sending villagers near the border into a tizzy.
Firing was also reported at the Chakri outpost of the Border Security Force (BSF) along the International Boundary as frontier guards repulsed an intrusion bid by 8-10 people in a counter-offensive.
A search operation was launched in the border belt of Gurdaspur district of north Punjab following an unsuccessful infiltration bid.
The latest in a series of border skirmishes came a day after militants attacked the local headquarters of a counter-insurgency military unit on the banks of the Jhelum river in a north Kashmir village on Sunday night, killing a paramilitary trooper.
The heavily armed militants managed to escape even as a massive search was launched to track them in the border district of Baramulla.
Inspector General (Kashmir) of the BSF Vikash Chandra said two militants were involved in the attack. He said a GPS set, a compass and a wire cutter besides some ammunition were recovered from the shootout site.
"My boys from the spot confirmed that there were at least two terrorists who were firing at them," he said.
The attack was similar to last month's strike when militants sneaked into the Uri army base – also in Baramulla – and killed 19 soldiers. India blamed Pakistan militant groups for the Uri attack.
The Indian Army last week conducted "surgical strikes" at militant camps on the Pakistani side of the LoC in retaliation to the Uri assault, destroying seven terror launch pads and killing an unknown number of militants in Pakistan-held Kashmir.
Since then the militaries of the two countries have been shelling each other in violation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement on daily basis, creating fears of a sub-continental war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
But for the first time since the war hysteria, the two countries sent a feeler of reducing tension when the NSAs from the two countries had a telephonic conversation on Monday morning.
Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, said Pakistan's NSA Nasser Janjua and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval talked to defuse the tension that has gripped the border and the LoC.
"Both the officials stressed the need to establish contact to reduce tensions along the Line of Control," Aziz said, according to The News International.
However, there was no official word from the Indian side about the telephonic talk between the two NSAs.
In Islamabad, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met the leaders of all Pakistani political parties to discuss the ongoing rift with India.
Sharif told the all-party meeting that Pakistan "will leave no stone unturned to highlight" the Kashmir issue at all international forums. "We stand united on matters of national importance, particularly Kashmir."
Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, who briefed the leaders, was quoted by state-run Radio Pakistan saying that the government was willing to discuss all issues with India.
"Pakistan wants peace and Kashmir and other bilateral issues should be discussed with India."