After Modi-Sharif bonhomie, India, Pakistan trade fire

New Delhi/Islamabad: India and Pakistan on Thursday lodged protests against each other after cross-border firing in Jammu and Kashmir left one dead and seven injured, days after bonhomie between the prime ministers of both countries in Russia.

Stating that Pakistan was trying to shift blame of ceasefire violations, India cautioned it about "effective and forceful response" to an unprovoked firing.

India, however, also reaffirmed its willingness to take forward the process for improving ties decided at the bilateral meeting at Ufa, in Russia.

Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told media persons here after a meeting of senior ministers that Indian forces had effectively retaliated to repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar met on Thursday afternoon in the wake of "seriousness of unprovoked firing" by Pakistan.

In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry met India's High Commissioner T.C.A. Raghavan and registered a protest over the firing as well as an alleged "Indian spy drone".

India raised the issue with Pakistani envoy Abdul Basit, rejecting the Pakistani claim that the shot down drone belonged to India.

The rising tensions along the Jammu and Kashmir border -- where civilians have been hit hard on both sides -- follow the July 10 joint statement between India and Pakistan, released after the Narendra Modi-Nawaz Sharif meeting at Ufa, to build peace.

There have been at least six violations of the 2003 ceasefire by Pakistan in the last four days, Foreign Secretary Jaishankar told media persons.

On July 12, Pakistani forces opened fire at Uri. A day later, there was a firing at Kupwara and Samba.

On Wednesday, a woman was killed and four people - two troopers and two civilians - were injured in indiscriminate shelling by Pakistan Rangers in Akhnoor sector. There was also an infiltration attempt in Jammu sector on Wednesday night.

Four villagers working in their fields were left injured in Ranbir Singh Pura (R.S. Pura) near the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistani firing on Thursday, a day ahead of Prime Minister Modi's visit in the region.

Villagers living close to the border showed journalists bullet marks and gaping holes made by Pakistan mortar shelling on their houses.

Jaishankar said there had been agreement on meetings of chiefs of BSF and Pakistan Rangers and director general military operations of India and Pakistan at Ufa.

"We remain committed to steps that contribute to ensuring peace and tranquillity on the border. However, there should be no doubt that any unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side would meet with an effective and forceful response from our forces," he said.

"Nor will we let down our guard against infiltration and cross-border terrorism," he added.

Jaishankar gave details of ceasefire violations by Pakistan, saying mortars and "flat trajectory weapons" were used.

He said the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval spoke to Raghavan, India's High Commissioner in Pakistan, on Wednesday, asking him to take up ceasefire violations with the Pakistan government following four attempts by the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Border Security Force in Jammu to contact sector commander of Pakistan Rangers in Sialkot.

Jaishankar said Doval also spoke to Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit for corrective steps but there "was no response from Pakistan government to our demarche".

He said as the NSA again spoke to Raghavan, and Basit and the Pakistan High Commissioner later conveyed that firing had been initiated by India and that an Indian drone had been brought down by Pakistan.

Jaishankar said there was also an infiltration attempt by three suspected terrorists on Thursday afternoon in the Jammu sector and they were given covering fire by Pakistani forces which was effectively retaliated.

Jaishankar said in his meeting with Raghavan, the Pakistan foreign secretary handed over a note verbale.

Referring to the issue of drone, Jaishankar said its photograph indicated that it was neither of Indian design nor of any UAV category held in the inventory of the Indian armed forces. "It appears to be of Chinese design, and is commercially available off the shelf."

Answering a query about the Indian forces carrying out operation along border with Myanmar last month, he said: "What is happening on western border, I don't see any connection with what happened on Indo-Myanmar border."

Thursday's protests were registered just days after bonhomie between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif in Russian city of Ufa.

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