Srinagar (India) (AFP) – An Indian army commander said Wednesday that Pakistani troops might be involved in an ongoing gunbattle near the disputed border in Kashmir, just days after the prime ministers of both countries agreed to soothe tensions.
The fighting began in Kupwara area on the Indian side of the disputed Line of Control on September 23, when militants tried to cross over from Pakistan into India in one of several recent infiltration attempts.
"This is not a pure infiltration attempt. These could be 20-30 in number and may include (the Pakistan army's) BAT," senior commander Gurmit Singh told reporters in Srinagar, the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir.
India has blamed Pakistan's Border Action Teams (BATs) for several sneak attacks in the past, including one in February in which five Indian soldiers were killed.
Singh denied reports that the infiltrators had overtaken a village.
"There is no question of our territory being taken over. We have laid an effective cordon and the operation is on," he said.
Police sources told AFP that the fighting was taking place in Shala Bhatta, an abandoned village near the Line of Control.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York on Sunday for the first time since Sharif swept to power in May promising an improvement in relations.
They agreed to task senior military officers to "find effective means to restore the ceasefire" in Kashmir, where regular clashes between the two armies have taken place this year, resulting in casualties on both sides.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947, but both claim it in full and they have fought two wars over the picturesque Himalayan territory.
About a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces for independence or for a merger of the disputed Himalayan territory with Pakistan for the last two decades in an insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Last Thursday, three suspected militants stormed a police station and an army base in the southernmost part of Indian Kashmir, killing ten people -- including four soldiers, four police and two civilians.