Truce violated again, Pak denies hand

Agence France Presse

New Delhi, January 21:

Ten mortar shells fired from Pakistan crashed into Kashmir in the second such bombardment this week, officials said today, as New Delhi kept its powder dry and Pakistan denied any involvement. The latest salvo over the Line of Control (LoC) — the de facto border dividing Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani administered regions — hit the Mendhar sector late last night, a senior police official said. There were no reports of casualties.

In Islamabad, Pakistan’s military denied shells had been fired from its side of the border. “We have fully investigated this allegation and there is no truth in this. It is baseless and there has been no firing from Pakistan,” military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said.

“We are respecting the ceasefire and would like to reassure that the ceasefire will be maintained,” Sultan said. “There has been no violation from Pakistan’s side.” Sultan said Pakistani troops had also heard weapons fire about one kilometre from the Line of Control.

In Kashmir, India’s northern command spokesman Colonel RK Sen said there was no retaliation. “We are assessing the situation. We are exercising restraint, we have not fired back. We are honouring the ceasefire,” he said. He said Pakistani troops had fired the mortar shells which exploded in Hamirpur village. There was no damage to Indian posts or bunkers. “We will investigate the incident as we want to know whether the firing was aimed at hitting our posts or at providing fire cover to the militants who had been brought to the launching pads across Poonch sector.”

Another army official, Brigadier Dhruv Katoch of 16 Corps headquarters at Jammu, the town nearest to Mendhar, said the shells which landed on the Indian side were of 60 mm and 82 mm calibre. This was followed by small arms fire that lasted for more than 10 minutes, Katoch said. The second round of shelling came just before India’s army chief Nirmal Chandra Vij was due to visit the Line of Control in Kashmir, an army spokesman in New Delhi said.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due to meet his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz on the sidelines of a regional summit in Dhaka on February 6-7. Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh is to visit Pakistan later next month.