An Indian soldier and a young girl were killed Monday during a skirmish at the de facto border in Kashmir, officials said, just a day after four Pakistani soldiers were killed in a similar exchange.
Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said a soldier died when a mortar fired from Pakistan-controlled territory landed on a bunker, sparking fierce retaliatory fire.
A police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said an eight-year-old girl was also killed in an exchange of fire across the Line of Control, and her mother was seriously injured.
The tit-for-tat exchange came after India justified firing a barrage that saw four Pakistani soldiers killed Sunday, saying it had the right to retaliate over “ceasefire violations” in the Kashmir region.
Raja Arshad, a local government official in Pakistan-administered Kashmir told AFP that seven civilians were injured in the firing by Indian troops in Nakyal sector on the de facto border.
The military heads of India and Pakistan spoke by phone after Islamabad accused New Delhi of bombing one of its military vehicles Sunday, killing four of its troops in its part of Kashmir.
In a statement following the call, the Indian army said that “all ceasefire violations were initiated by Pakistan Army and the Indian Army only responded appropriately to them”.
India was also targeting “armed intruders” attempting to cross the Line of Control — the de facto Kashmir border — in close proximity to Pakistani army posts, the statement added.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and the countries have fought two wars over the region.
The neighbours regularly exchange mortar fire across the border despite signing a ceasefire in 2003.
The Indian army said it wanted peace at the border but “reserved the right to retaliate appropriately” for ceasefire violations.
Tensions between the two sides reached dangerous levels last September, with both sides blaming one another for cross-border raids.
In November, at least nine people were killed when Indian cross-border fire hit a passenger bus in the Neelum Valley, the same region where the four Pakistani troops were allegedly killed.
There have since been repeated outbreaks of firing across the frontier, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries including of civilians.