India soldier dies in clashes with 'Pakistan militants' in Kashmir: official

SRINAGAR, India (AFP) - India's army clashed with suspected Pakistani militants in Indian Kashmir close to the disputed border between the two rival countries, leaving one soldier dead, a military official said Sunday.

Soldiers encountered the militants - who had crossed the de facto border into Indian Kashmir's Keran sector, some 150km north-west of the main city of Srinagar - on Saturday night, the official said.

"In the resultant exchange of fire between army and terrorists, one soldier was injured who succumbed later (to his injuries)," defence spokesman Colonel N.N. Joshi said.

Col Joshi said another soldier was injured in a different clash with suspected militants on Sunday morning in a nearby forested area.

The violence comes after India last week called off high-level talks with Pakistan, scheduled to take place in Islamabad, angry that Pakistani officials had met with Kashmiri separatist leaders in New Delhi.

Pakistan described the cancellation of the talks as a "setback" for closer relations with India's new right-wing government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India's military says it has stepped up operations to flush out suspected Pakistani militants moving across the de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC).

On Saturday, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged fire along the border further south in the region of Jammu, resulting in four deaths and forcing villagers to flee their homes.

Two civilians were killed on the Indian side of the international border when Pakistani forces opened fire, according to Indian officials. On the other side, two Pakistani civilians were killed by Indian fire, Pakistan's military said.

Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said Sunday there had been a series of recent "provocations" by Pakistan's army and India's military was "responding adequately".

Mr Jaitley said security forces were "fully protecting both our territory and people".

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim the region in full but administer separate partial areas. The neighbours have fought two of their three wars since independence over its control.

Since 1989, fighting between Indian forces and about a dozen rebel groups seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan has left tens of thousands dead, most of them civilians.