Calm at border as India, Pakistan reel from deadly Kashmir clashes

Political tensions were high but guns remained silent at the border between India and Pakistan on Friday, as the nuclear-armed neighbours reeled from deadly clashes in the disputed region of Kashmir that took place a day earlier.

Pakistani and Indian leaders held separate meetings in Islamabad and New Delhi to review the security situation as forces remained on high alert across the de facto border that divides Kashmir.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said his country wanted peace to focus on the welfare of the people, toning down the rhetoric compared to a statement on Thursday.

Two Pakistani soldiers were killed on Thursday in gunfire with Indian troops across the Line of Control (LoC), a de facto frontier that divides Kashmir into parts ruled by both countries.  

Indian officials said their troops marched up to three kilometres into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to hit militant "launch pads" from where insurgents were planning to attack India.

Pakistan said only cross-border firing occurred.

"Indian aggression is a threat to the regional peace ... The leadership and people of Pakistan are united to counter any aggressive design," premier Sharif said. 

Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi said her country would seek UN intervention to ease tensions.

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting in New Delhi to review the security situation as authorities ordered the evacuation of villages along the border in Punjab state.

People from some 1,000 villages in Punjab, which shares a 550-kilomtre border with Pakistan, were being evacuated as a precautionary measure, state officials said. 

An estimated 200,000 people would be evacuated, Indian media reported. Schools within a distance of 10 kilometres had been shut.

Pakistani forces Thursday said they had captured an Indian soldier who crossed the LoC, hours after troops exchanged fire.

But the Indian army said the captured soldier had "inadvertently crossed" the LoC from the army post where he was on duty and would be returned to India through military channels.

Singh said all attempts would be made to free the soldier and Delhi would take up the matter with Pakistan. The 22-year-old trooper was identified as Chandu Babulal Chauhan.

Tensions rose earlier this month after militants stormed an Indian army base in Kashmir, killing 19 soldiers in an attack New Delhi blamed on extremists operating from Pakistan.

Indian Premier Narendra Modi was expected to chair a security meeting with his cabinet, media reports said, but this was not confirmed by officials.

Last update: Fri, 30/09/2016 - 15:10
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