Pakistan denies attack on Indian troops in Kashmir
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Pakistan on Tuesday denied reports that its soldiers had killed five Indian troops in an attack on a military post in Indian-administered Kashmir. Indian officials said the attack took place some 200 kilometres south of the state capital Srinagar.
India Tuesday accused Pakistan's military of involvement in an ambush on an army post in disputed Kashmir which killed five soldiers and punctured hopes of a resumption in peace talks.
While the Pakistani army denied any involvement in such an attack, India's defence minister said the government in New Delhi had lodged an official protest with its counterpart in Islamabad.
"We strongly condemn this unprovoked incident," Defence Minister A. K. Antony told lawmakers amid calls from the Indian opposition for a "powerful" response from the military.
"The attack was carried out by 20 heavily-armed terrorists, along with persons in Pakistani army uniform," he said, speaking in the Indian capital.
"The government of India has lodged a strong protest with the government of Pakistan through diplomatic channels," Antony added.
Officials in Indian-administered Kashmir said that the attack had taken place late Monday at a military outpost around 200 kilometres (124 miles) south of the state capital Srinagar.
The picturesque Himalayan territory of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by a UN-monitored de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC), but is claimed in full by both countries.
"Pakistani troops simply attacked the Indian post, violating the ceasefire, and they killed five of our soldiers," a senior army official in Indian Kashmir told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Another senior army official said that a sixth soldier who managed to escape the attack was now being treated in a military hospital in Kashmir.
"He is badly wounded and is being treated for multiple injuries," said the official, also on condition of anonymity.
Despite the protests from India, the Pakistan army denied responsibility.
"No Pakistani troops either crossed into India nor carried out any unprovoked firing. The Indian allegations are totally baseless," a Pakistani military spokesman told AFP in Islamabad.
Hopes of progress in the beleaguered peace process have risen in recent weeks but Omar Abdullah, the state's chief minister, said that the attack would undermine efforts at rapprochement.
"These incidents don't help efforts to normalise or even improve relations with Pak & call in to question the Pak Govt's recent overtures," he tweeted.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.
A deadly flare-up along the LoC border in January brought low-level peace talks to a halt which had only just resumed after a three-year hiatus sparked by the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.
However the election of moderate Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in May's Pakistani polls has fuelled expectations of a rapprochement.
Sujatha Singh, India's new foreign secretary, said last Thursday that India would be "picking up the threads" of peace talks with the new Pakistani government.
Singh however said that any dialogue with Islamabad "presupposes an environment free of violence and of terror".
Speaking on the same day, Sharif reiterated his desire to boost ties with India and included Kashmir on a list of issues that had to be tackled.
"We will boost trade, we will boost business and will boost investment with India," the premier told reporters in Karachi.
"We will also try our best to solve all longstanding issues with India, including Kashmir."
But after the attack, India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said talks could not take place in such an environment.
"Pakistan has killed our soldiers today and this is becoming a routine. They are very aggressive... why are we holding talks with such country?" Yashwant Sinha, one of the BJP's leaders, told lawmakers.
"It is time we give a powerful reply. Our army is not weak. We should not ignore this deadly incident."
Indian analysts said that the attack would undermine New Delhi's trust in the new Sharif government in Islamabad.
"This incident will have a serious impact on the relations between India and Pakistan," said Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary.
"It shows that maybe the Pakistani leadership is not fully on board to hold talks."
More than a dozen armed rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989, demanding independence for Kashmir or a merger with Pakistan.
Although there had been a lull in violence, this year has seen a resurgence of deadly militant attacks on Indian security forces.
India's army has also carried out a number of large-scale operations in the region in recent months. Around 25 militants have been killed by the armed forces in the past month, according to Indian officials.