Posted on Feb 25, 2018
India and Pakistan have exchanged artillery fire in the disputed Kashmir region forcing hundreds of people to flee, police in Indian Kashmir have reported, raising fresh doubts about a 15-year-old ceasefire between the nuclear-armed rivals in the area.
It was not clear what triggered the latest fighting on Saturday (24 Feb) in the Uri sector on the so-called Line of Control (LoC) that divides the mostly Muslim Himalayan region.
But tension has been running high since an attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir this month in which six soldiers were killed.
Kashmir is the scene of the longest running human rights crisis in the world, dating back to 1948. At that time the people of Kashmir were promised, by UN Resolution, a plebiscite on their future: to decide if they would become part of India, Pakistan, or to choose independence. They are still waiting.
Since that time the region has been hotly disputed, with the two occupying powers sporadically clashing, and going to war twice. Local populations are subject to harsh conditions, and with many thousands of civilian deaths, as well as torture, rape, and "disappearances".
India has blamed Pakistan for this latest outbreak of hostilities and said it would make its rival pay for the “misadventure”.
Police superintendent Imtiaz Hussain said artillery shells fired by the Pakistan army fell in the Uri area and hundreds of villagers had fled from their homes.
Indian forces returned artillery fire, an Indian officer said, the first time the heavy guns had been used since a 2003 ceasefire along the disputed frontier.
Hussain said Pakistani authorities made announcements from a mosque advising villagers living close to the LoC on the Indian side to flee, saying the situation was bad.
About 700 people were sheltering at school in Uri, he said.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the firing and said in a statement 17 Pakistani civilians had been killed by Indian fire along the LoC this year.
India accuses Pakistan of orchestrating a separatist revolt in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Pakistan denies giving material support to the fighters and calls for talks to resolve what it regards as the core disagreement between it and India.
A third occupying power, China, has remained largely in the background, but has quietly been increasing its military presence in the region, and has taken control of ambitious new projects which will give it a high degree of control over Kashmir's water resources. China is facing an imminent crisis as its aquifers dry up and the vital glaciers retreat in the face of global warming.
Read also: EU Urged To Help End Bloodshed In Kashmir
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