A suspected militant and a policeman were killed in the first gun battle since New Delhi stripped Indian Kashmir of its autonomy, police said Wednesday after US President Donald Trump offered to mediate the “explosive” situation.
In a further sign of rising tensions, Pakistan said meanwhile that three of its civilians died in Indian gunfire from across the de-facto border in Kashmir known as the Line of Control (LoC).
The Press Trust of India news agency quoted officials as saying one Indian soldier died and four were wounded when Pakistani troops opened fire on forward posts and villages along the LoC in the Poonch district on Tuesday.
Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and the situation in Kashmir, divided between them since 1947, is further complicated by the fact that China also claims part of the Himalayan region.
Trump who has previously spoken of his willingness to mediate said he would raise the situation over the weekend with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both men are expected in France for a summit of the Group of Seven industrialised nations.
“Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have Hindus and you have the Muslims and I wouldn’t say they get along so great,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I will do the best I can to mediate,” he added.
At least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-controlled Kashmir, according to security and government sources, since early August when authorities imposed a communications blackout and restricted freedom of movement in the region.
Highlighting the growing international concern, a senior US official, who has just returned from a visit to the region, called on India Tuesday to quickly release detainees and restore basic liberties.
“We continue to be very concerned by reports of detentions, and continued restrictions on the residents of the region,” the State Department official told reporters.
“We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Officials in France said that President Emmanuel Macron would bring up Kashmir with Modi when the two meet in Paris ahead of the G7 summit.