SRINAGAR, India – Pakistani soldiers crossed the cease-fire line in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir on Tuesday and attacked an army patrol, killing two Indian soldiers before retreating back into Pakistani-controlled territory, an Indian army official said.
The outbreak of violence was the second in three days in Kashmir, where a cease-fire between the two wary, nuclear-armed rivals has largely held for a decade. Deaths in military exchanges are now uncommon compared to earlier years. But while diplomatic nervousness over the disputed region is never far from the surface, the earlier incident created no signs of escalating tensions in either New Delhi or Islamabad, and received relatively little media attention in either country.
The countries have fought two full-scale wars over Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in largely Hindu India.
Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India's foreign ministry, said in a statement that military commanders from the two countries had been in contact since the violence. Such contacts normally occur to make sure confrontations do not escalate.
Brig. S. Chawla, a senior Indian army officer, said the Pakistani soldiers crossed into Indian-controlled Kashmir near the town of Mendhar, about 110 miles (175 kilometers) from Srinagar, the region's main city, taking advantage of thick fog. The Pakistani soldiers retreated after a brief gunbattle with Indian forces, he said.
He said one of the Indian bodies had been mutilated, but provided no more details.
"They not only violated the cease-fire, but also the sanctity of the line of control" that divides Kashmir, Chawla said.
A Pakistan army spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, denied that Pakistani soldiers had been involved in an unprovoked shooting.
Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan but divided between them.
While the two nations remain rivals, relations between them have improved dramatically since the 2008 Mumbai siege, in which 10 Pakistani gunmen killed 166 people and effectively shut down the city for days. India claims the terrorists had ties to Pakistani intelligence officials -- an accusation Islamabad denies.
Signs of their improving ties include new visa rules announced in December designed to make cross-border travel easier. They have also been taking steps to improve cross-border trade.
A 2003 cease-fire ended the most recent round of Kashmir fighting, although each side occasionally accuses the other of violating it by firing mortars or gunshots across the line of control.
While deaths are now relatively rare, a number of Pakistani civilians were wounded by Indian shelling in November. In October, the Indian army said Pakistani troops killed three civilians when they fired across the frontier.