India-Pakistan Crossfire Continues Along Kashmir Border

Indian and Pakistani soldiers traded fire across the heavily armed Kashmir frontier for more than 12 hours overnight and into Tuesday in what the Indian army called the worst violation of a 2003 cease-fire agreement between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

The night-long gunbattle came after one Indian soldier and four Pakistanis were killed Monday along the heavily armed frontier that divides Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, the Indian army said. Pakistan denied its soldiers were killed.

No further casualties were reported Tuesday.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. However, the frontier has been largely quiet since a 2003 cease-fire agreement, which has formed the cornerstone of a peace process between the two countries.

"This is the biggest violation of the cease-fire in the last five years," said Lt. Col. Anil Kumar Mathur, an army spokesman. "We've sought a meeting with the Pakistani army to protest the violation."

By noon the gunfire had ended, Mathur said.

The Indian army said the fighting Monday began when Pakistani troops crossed the frontier and opened fire.

But Pakistani army officials denied this Tuesday and blamed the incident on Indian soldiers trying to build a post on Pakistan's side.

Pakistan army's top spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said the army has evidence of the Indian army crossing the Line of Control, the cease-fire line that serves as the de facto border.

"This will not in any way any help the confidence-building measures that are being taken but it will deteriorate the situation," he said on Pakistan's Geo TV.

Brig. Gopala Krishnan Murali, an Indian army officer, dismissed the Pakistani claims as "baseless allegations."

Indian and Pakistani commanders of the area where the shooting occurred met Tuesday to discuss how to ease the tension, said officials from both sides.

Indian officers proposed a joint inspection of the shooting site and are awaiting a response from their Pakistani counterparts, Murali said.

While the border has been largely quiet in recent years there have been an increase of incidents in recent months.

Both sides have blamed the other for violating the cease-fire and New Delhi has accused Islamabad of helping Islamic rebels sneak into its part of Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies.

Nearly a dozen Islamic rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict.