India defends shelling after four Pakistani troops killed

Indian army personnel and policemen move the body of a soldier reportedly killed along the line of control between India and Pakistan, to a morgue in the Bhimber Gali sector of the district of Rajouri, some 159 km from Jammu, on Monday. — AFP

NEW DELHI — India has defended shelling across a disputed border that allegedly killed four Pakistani soldiers, saying on Monday it had the right to retaliate over “ceasefire violations” in the Kashmir region.

The military heads of India and Pakistan spoke by phone after Islamabad accused New Delhi of bombing one of its military vehicles on Sunday, killing four of its troops in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

In a statement following the call, the Indian army said that “all ceasefire violations were initiated by Pakistan Army and the Indian Army only responded appropriately to them.”

India was also targeting “armed intruders” attempting to cross the Line of Control — the de facto Kashmir border — in close proximity to Pakistani army posts, the statement added.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and the countries have fought two wars over the region.

The neighbors regularly exchange mortar fire across the border despite signing a ceasefire in 2003.

The Indian army said it wanted peace at the border but “reserved the right to retaliate appropriately” for ceasefire violations.

Tensions between the two sides reached dangerous levels last September, with both sides blaming one another for cross-border raids.

In November, at least nine people were killed when Indian cross-border fire hit a passenger bus in the Neelum Valley, the same region where the four Pakistani troops were allegedly killed.

There have since been repeated outbreaks of firing across the frontier, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries including of civilians.

On Monday, a nine-year-old girl and a soldier were killed in Indian-administered Kashmir after Pakistani troops fired along the border in Poonch district, the Press Trust of India reported.