JAMMU (TIP): The fragile peace between India and Pakistan is once again under threat after two Indian soldiers were killed and ‘mutilated’ during fresh clashes at the Kashmir border. India claims Pakistani troops crossed into their territory on January 8 and attacked Indian soldiers patrolling in the Mendhar region before retreating. The government said the bodies of the two killed soldiers were ‘subjected to barbaric and inhuman mutilation’ while a senior army officer disclosed that they had been decapitated.
Pakistan alleged that Indian troops crossed the cease-fire line in Sunday’s attack. Both sides have denied crossing into the other’s territory. Both India and Pakistan claim the largely Muslim territory of Kashmir but it remains divided between them along a Line of Control (LoC). The countries, both nuclear powers, have fought two wars over the Himalayan area but a cease-fire has largely held for a decade. India summoned Pakistan’s top diplomat in New Delhi to formally complain about the latest clash. The Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that Pakistan has been asked to ‘immediately investigate these actions that are in contravention of all norms of international conduct and ensure that these do not recur.’ The defence minister described the incident as ‘highly provocative’ but a foreign minister sought to play it down.
‘I think it is important in the long term that what has happened should not be escalated,’ said Salman Khurshid. ‘We cannot and must not allow the escalation of any unwholesome event like this.’ ‘We have to be careful that forces attempting to derail all the good work that’s been done towards normalization (of relations) should not be successful.’ Firing and small skirmishes are common along the 460-mile LoC despite the ceasefire and improving relations. The Indian army says eight of its soldiers were killed in 2012, in 75 incidents. Away from the border, however, ties have appeared to be improving. Pakistan’s cricket team completed a two-week tour of India on Sunday, the first time it has visited in five years.