By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, (AA): At least four children were killed and three other people injured in fresh shelling by Indian forces along the border of the disputed Kashmir region in the last 24 hours, Pakistan claimed Sunday.
Indian border forces intermittently shelled several villages in the Kotli district, in the Pakistani part of Kashmir, leading to the casualties, Raja Arif Mehmood, Kotli’s assistant commissioner, told reporters.
He said that a shell landed on a house in a village located along the Line of Control (LoC) – an imaginary border that splits the Himalayan valley between the two nuclear rivals – killing a teenage boy, his sister, and a cousin. Another minor girl was killed elsewhere in the district, he added.
In a statement, a Foreign Office spokesman said that Islamabad had handed over details of the children killed by Indian shelling to the UN observers, and demanded that immediate steps be taken to stop civilian casualties.
The already icy relationship between the two nuclear-armed rivals was further strained late last month after a brazen attack on an Indian army base in the Indian-held Kashmir Valley which left 18 Indian soldiers dead. New Delhi blamed the attack on militants based in Pakistan.
Pakistan, however, denied the charge. The attack subsequently led to an ongoing wave of clashes between the two border forces, which have killed over three dozen people from both sides.
The South Asian countries, which are locked in a string of land-and-sea disputes, have fought three full-fledged wars – two of them on Kashmir – following an end to British colonial rule in the subcontinent in 1947.
– Fishing dispute
Pakistan’s maritime security agency, meanwhile, arrested 43 Indian fishermen for fishing in Pakistani territorial waters on Sunday, a spokesman for the agency said in a statement.
The detainees were handed over to the local police, which booked them under the foreigners and fisheries acts.
The two countries often arrest fishermen for violating each other’s seawaters due to poorly marked water boundaries and ill-equipped boats that lack the technology to specify exact locations.
According to the Foreign Office, the two nuclear rivals still hold over 500 prisoners each, mostly fishermen, in their respective jails, though the two sides have released hundreds of each other’s fishermen as a goodwill gesture in recent years.
Longstanding strained relations between the two neighbors have kept prisoners in jail for longer periods, and in some cases, even after the completion of their terms.
[Archive photo: Indian soldiers in Indian held Kashmir. Photograph by AA]