India, Pakistan exchange cross-border fire after UN meeting

SRINAGAR • India and Pakistan exchanged "heavy" cross-border fire yesterday, after New Delhi's move to strip the restive Kashmir region of its autonomy prompted a rare meeting of the UN Security Council.

The two foes regularly fire potshots over the Line of Control in the disputed Himalayan territory, which is divided between the two countries, and this has poisoned their relations since independence in 1947.

But the latest exchange follows India's decision this month to rip up the special constitutional status of its part of Kashmir, sparking protests from the local population, outrage from Pakistan and unease from neighbouring China.

"The exchange of fire is going on," a senior Indian government official told Agence France-Presse, calling it "heavy".

One Indian soldier was reportedly killed. Pakistan made no immediate comment on the violence.

India says its decision to convert Jammu and Kashmir into two federally administered regions would usher in prosperity for the region where as many as 42,000 people, including civilians, army, police and militants, have died in violence in the last three decades.

Late Friday, Pakistan and China succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to discuss Kashmir - behind closed doors - for the first time since the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. China's UN ambassador blamed India for stoking tensions with Pakistan and called on both sides to exercise restraint after the meeting that failed to produce concrete action.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence.

Meanwhile, India yesterday gradually restored phone lines following an almost two-week communications blackout in its part of Kashmir, imposed hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise Aug 5 gambit.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 18, 2019, with the headline 'India, Pakistan exchange cross-border fire after UN meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe