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Soldier and five militants killed in Kashmir, days after India cancels Pakistan talks

An Indian soldier and five suspected militants have died in fighting in Kashmir, the Indian army said Monday, just days after high-level talks with Pakistan were cancelled over tensions in the disputed territory.

Colonel Rajesh Kalia said two suspected rebels died Sunday, September 23 when the army detected a group trying to cross the de facto border dividing Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani sectors.

Three more suspected militants, and an Indian soldier, were killed Monday.

The incidents in northern Tangdhar area, near the heavily militarized Himalayan frontier dividing the nuclear-armed neighbors, could not be independently verified.

Last week India abruptly cancelled a meeting with Pakistan, just 24 hours after agreeing to the rare encounter on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

High-level talks between India and Pakistan are rare and the meeting, between their foreign ministers, would have been the first for nearly three years.

India said it cancelled the talks after the “brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities.”

Last week three police officers were abducted and killed by militants in Kashmir, and a border guard was also murdered in the divided region.

India also objected to the release of Pakistani postage stamps in July “glorifying a terrorist and terrorism,” saying it revealed their “evil agenda.”

Among the commemorative stamps was one of Burhan Wani, a charismatic Kashmiri militant commander killed by Indian troops in July 2016.

His death sparked a wave of violent protests in the part of Kashmir administered by India.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called it an “arrogant and negative response” to his calls for the resumption of peace talks.

India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said Khan had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week about a “readiness to discuss terrorism” but had shown his “true face.”

India has around 500,000 soldiers deployed in Kashmir, which has been divided between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. They have fought three wars over the disputed territory.

In May, the Indian army declared a halt to offensive military operations for Ramadan, the first of its kind in the region for nearly two decades.

Many civilians in Indian Kashmir – India’s only Muslim-majority state – support rebels who have been fighting since 1989 for decades for independence or for a merger with Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died.

India accuses Pakistan of fuelling the insurgency and arming rebels, but Islamabad says it only gives diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Kashmir looks for peace as ceasefire violations increase on the India-Pakistan border

With reporting from AFP

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