India & Pakistan soldiers in new Kashmir violence
SRINAGAR, India, March 6, (Agencies): Indian and Pakistani soldiers shelled military outposts and villages along their highly militarized frontier in disputed Kashmir on Wednesday, in new violence despite stepped-up diplomatic efforts by the rival countries to ease tensions.
The two armies accused each other of initiating the artillery and mortar fire and small-arms gunfire. No casualties were immediately reported. Tensions have been high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan last week, carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a Feb 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops. Pakistan retaliated, shooting down two Indian planes and capturing a pilot, who was later returned to India in a peace gesture. The two countries have also resumed bus and train services that were stopped following the escalation of tensions, the most serious in the long-simmering conflict since 1999, when Pakistan’s military sent a ground force into Indiancontrolled Kashmir.
However, border tensions continue. The new violence flared up at several places along the Line of Control that divides the Himalayan territory of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Both of the nuclear-armed rivals claim the entire territory. Both sides accused the other of violating a 2003-cease-fire accord and said their soldiers retaliated “befittingly and effectively.” Tens of thousands of people live in rugged, mountainous and lush green-forested areas along the frontier on both sides of divided Kashmir, despite a climate of constant fear.
Each year cycles of border violence break out between the two countries. Hundreds of civilians have died in the skirmishes, which also kill livestock and damage property. India accuse Pakistan of training, arming and sheltering rebels who began fighting Indian forces in 1989. Pakistan denies the allegation, saying it only offers moral support to Kashmiris seeking the right to selfdetermination for the entire territory.
Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ goal of uniting Kashmir either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. About 70,000 people have died in the conflict since 1989.
Meanwhile, high-resolution satellite images reviewed by Reuters show that a religious school run by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in northeastern Pakistan appears to be still standing days after India claimed its warplanes had hit the Islamist group’s training camp on the site and killed a large number of militants.
The images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, show at least six buildings on the madrasa site on March 4, six days after the airstrike.
Until now, no high-resolution satellite images were publicly available. But the images from Planet Labs, which show details as small as 72 cm (28 inches), offer a clearer look at the structures the Indian government said it attacked.
The image is virtually unchanged from an April 2018 satellite photo of the facility. There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrasa or other signs of an aerial attack.
The images cast further doubt on statements made over the last eight days by the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the raids, early on Feb 26, had hit all the intended targets at the madrasa site near Jaba village and the town of Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. India’s foreign and defence ministries did not reply to emailed questions sent in the past few days seeking comment on what is shown in the satellite images and whether they undermine its official statements on the airstrikes.