NEW DELHI (AFP) – India told Pakistan Thursday to stop its shelling in disputed Kashmir, warning it will make such attacks “unaffordable”, as the death toll from this week’s cross-border violence – the worst in years – rose to 17.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley accused Pakistan of instigating the tit-for-tat shelling that began on Sunday and has forced tens of thousands of civilians living on both sides of the border to flee their homes.
“If Pakistan persists with this adventurism, our forces will make cost of this adventurism unaffordable for it,” Jaitley told journalists in New Delhi.
“Pakistan should stop this unprovoked firing and shelling if it wants peace on the border.”
The Pakistani army on Thursday confirmed five more civilians had died on its side of the disputed northern Kashmir region and eastern Punjab province, doubling the toll to 10.
Seven civilians have died in India. Regional police chief Rajesh Kumar told AFP Thursday that firing from both sides had continued into the early hours of the morning.
“Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes,” he added.
The nuclear-armed neighbours have traded blame for the cross-border strikes, which began during Eid ul-Adha celebrations in the predominantly Muslim region.
Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said his country was “fully capable of responding befittingly to Indian aggression” but urged India to exercise caution.
“We do not want the situation on the borders of two nuclear neighbours to escalate into confrontation,” he added.
The latest crisis is being closely watched for signs that India’s new right-wing nationalist government will take a more hardline approach to Pakistan.
India, which has an estimated 500,000 troops deployed in its part of the disputed region, called off peace talks last month after Pakistan consulted with Indian Kashmiri separatists.
New Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during a visit to New York last month that Pakistan needed to show more “seriousness” to resume dialogue between the historic adversaries.