ISLAMABAD / MIRPUR - Unprovoked Indian firing on Thursday killed another two Pakistan Army soldiers and wounded at least two civilians including a woman and a child along the border dividing the disputed territory of Kashmir, in the second such incident within two days.

Pakistani soldiers were killed “due to Indian troops unprovoked firing at the LoC on Thursday,” Pakistani officials said, adding, “Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing at the LoC in Rakhchakri sector near Rawlakot at 1150 hours Thursday.”

On the other hand an Indian army officer said that Indian troops had responded after receiving gunfire from Pakistani soldiers, and the exchange lasted three hours.

He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military policy.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Thursday lodged strong protest with India over the killing of its soldiers, as a result of indiscriminate firing by the Indian army in Rawalakot sector.

Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani called Indian High Commissioner Dr TCA Raghavan to the Foreign Office Thursday and conveyed Pakistan’s serious concern over the continued and unwarranted ceasefire violations by the Indian army resulting in loss of precious human lives. He also called upon the government of India to respect the ceasefire agreement and desist from such acts, which have the potential of further escalating the tension.

Foreign Secretary Jilani, while conveying concern over the recent incidents, also expressed Pakistani government’s desire to engage with India in a constructive dialogue process, aimed at reducing tensions and restoring peace and tranquility along the Line of Control. In this regard, he proposed that senior officials from the foreign ministries and militaries could meet to discuss ways and means to strengthen and expand the existing military and political mechanisms to ensure implementation on the ceasefire agreement in letter and spirit.

The ceasefire violations have also damaged at least 26 houses, besides killing a number of cattle in various firing-hit forward villages in Nikayal sector of Azad Jammu and Kashmir during the past one week, official sources said.

“India resorted to unprovoked firing targeting the populous area of Balakot close to the Line of Control in Nikayal sector of Azad Jammu and Kashmir overnight which resulted in severe injuries to two civilians including a woman and a child,” Ch Muhammad Ayub, Assistant Commissioner Nikayal told The Nation over telephone Thursday afternoon.

“The Indian forces fired shells, without any provocation, targeting the civilians in various forward villages in Nikayal sector Wednesday night and the firing was continuing intermittently till last reports came in Thursday evening,” Deputy Comissioner Kotli Masudur Rehman told this scribe. Giving details of the damage done following the week-long unprovoked firing by the Indian troops from across the LoC in Nikayal and Tattapani sectors in Kotli district, the deputy commissioner said at least 13 civilians were injured, 26 houses and two parked-vehicles were damaged, besides loss of at least 10 cattle heads due to the unprovoked Indian firing. The DC said morale of the population of the firing-hit areas close to the LoC was high despite the increased incidents of the unprovoked firing by India across the LoC. He said the local civil administration was taking steps to shift the people of the areas falling directly in the firing range to the safer places. Masudur Rehman said at least 35 families of local population had been re-located from the firing-hit forward villages to the nearby safer places as precautionary measures.

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT adds: The United States Thursday stepped up its call for a dialogue between India and Pakistan, saying American diplomats in Islamabad and New Delhi are in touch with the respective governments over the Kashmir tensions that have persisted for weeks.

“We remain concerned about violence along the line of control,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said when a Pakistani journalist drew her attention to reports about unprovoked Indian shelling that killed one army officer and two of its soldiers in different sectors.

“We are certainly aware of these reports,” she said.

“We understand that the governments of India and Pakistan are in contact. We continue to encourage further dialogue.

Referring to the efforts of American diplomats in Islamabad and New Delhi, Psaki said, “We have a very robust US presence in both of those countries and I know they remain in contact with leaders on a range of issues.”  The spokesperson would not speculate on the reasons behind India’ aggressive posture, when pointed out that despite Pakistan’s emphasis on peace and restraint, India continues firing across the Line of Control.

“I don’t want to speculate on future. We certainly hope that they will engage in dialogue, and, of course they have played important roles in the process in Afghanistan as well and we are hopeful that will continue,” she remarked, when asked about fears that a persisting standoff in Kashmir could see a spillover of  Pakistani-Indian tensions into Afghanistan.