India ‘provoked Kashmir clash after woman crossed LoC’

Two Indian newspapers have suggested the army may have provoked recent fatal clashes in the disputed Kashmir region.

The reports say commanders breached a ceasefire accord by ordering new observation posts on the dividing Line of Control (LoC) after a 70-year-old woman crossed it unhindered last year.

Two Indian soldiers died on Tuesday after what Delhi says was a Pakistani raid, days after Pakistan said one of its soldiers died in an Indian attack. Both sides deny provoking the clashes.

The Indian government has reacted with fury to what it says was a highly provocative raid by Pakistani forces earlier this week.

But in a rare case of contradicting the army line, two Indian newspapers say the sudden spike in violence may instead have been provoked by its recent actions – and a grandmother deciding to join her family in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

According to The Hindu newspaper, after the 70 year-old woman managed to cross the LoC unhindered last September, alarmed Indian commanders responded by ordering new observation posts in the area – construction work that is barred under a 10-year-old ceasefire agreement between the two rivals.

Pakistan reportedly made its displeasure known, at first via a tannoy system across the relatively small gap between the two sides, and then by firing.

On 6 January, an Indian commander known for his “very aggressive track record”, according to Daily News and Analysis (DNA), decided to counter-attack resulting in a Pakistani soldier being killed.

Islamabad alleges that Indian troops also crossed the LoC in that attack – something Delhi denies.

The Pakistanis then hit back with a raid across another border area on Tuesday morning, with India condemning their actions as “barbaric” and “inhuman” following reports the bodies of the two Indian soldiers who died had been mutilated.

Pakistan denies Indian accounts of what happened.

The DNA newspaper also says that Indian troops across the region did not receive the standard alert after the Sunday raid. Instead, other units were “running things as business as usual”.

India’s defence ministry spokesman Col Jagdish Dahiya denied any recent actions “could have provoked Pakistan”.

But he said there had been “routine maintenance of our fortifications” in the area where the fighting occurred last Sunday, near the village of Charonda.

These were not new posts, he insisted, and so “this could not be considered a ceasefire violation”.

There had been an Indian attack in the Charonda area on Sunday, he said, to “retaliate” for Pakistani firing on Indian positions.

Asked about reports no alert had been given after this, he said procedures were being looked into but he could not comment further.

The army is now carrying out an inquiry into the incident, and both India and Pakistan seem to be trying to de-escalate the worst outbreak in tension since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

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