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Pakistan and Indian Troops Exchange Heavy Fire

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Thousands of villagers on the Kashmir border with India and Pakistan flee their homes as troops trade heavy fire once more.

More civilians have died in cross-border fighting between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir as the United Nations urges the nuclear powers to use diplomacy.

At least two people were killed in a third night of violence as troops from both sides exchanged heavy fire over their borders into the divided Himalayan region in what has been described as the worst violation of a 2003 ceasefire.

The ceasefire between India and Pakistan was agreed after several years of almost daily border battles – India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

The latest killings brings the total number of dead on the India side to seven, with more than 70 injured.

Pakistan says 10 of its civilians were killed and dozens wounded by Indian firing in Sialkot.

Tens of thousands of villagers who live on the border have fled their homes since the violence resumed on Sunday night along the 120-mile International border in Jammu and Kashmir.

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “The Secretary-General would call on both countries to resolve their issues diplomatically and through discussions.”

Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Masood Khan, told the UN: “We call upon the Indian Government to immediately cease fire and help us preserve tranquillity.”

Pakistan has lodged a protest against the violations and approached the UN Military Observer Group – the world body’s observer force in the disputed region – over the issue.

India says that the UNMOGIP has “outlived its relevance” and has “no role to play whatsoever”.

Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three major wars and a limited one in the mountains of Kargil in 1998. 

There have been a number of peace initiatives but each failed, escalating the distrust.

Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi in May invited Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to his swearing in.

The bonhomie between the two leaders spurred confidence-building measures, with foreign secretaries scheduled to meet.

However, it was called off within weeks when the Pakistan High Commissioner in Delhi met separatist leaders from Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Modi led the Bharitya Janata Party to its biggest victory in May’s general elections, meaning that, for the first time in three decades, a political party enjoys a majority in parliament.

Until now, Mr Modi has had a dream run with successful trips to the US and Japan, while world leaders have felicitated him at home.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, is besieged with internal problems.

Opposition leaders are campaigning against his government and want him to quit.

His army is deployed in the tribal regions to fight the Pakistani Taliban who have declared their support for the Islamic State (IS).

While Pakistan has to maintain a substantial presence along the western Afghan border, it can ill afford stresses with India on the east.

 

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