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Pakistan Says Indian Forces Fire On Border

A Pakistani police checkpoint at the porous, but heavily militarized, Afghan-Pakistani border
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- Indian forces fired across the Pakistani border late on September 11 after mistakenly believing Pakistani troops had fired rockets into India, a Pakistani security force spokesman said.

But a senior Indian Border Security Force official said Pakistan had started the clash by firing two rockets into Indian territory.

No one was hurt and border-force commanders later met to discuss the incident, the Pakistani spokesman said, but it underlined the nuclear-armed rivals' fragile ties.

The rare firing on the border at Wagah, between the Pakistani city of Lahore and India's Amritsar, came hours after the two countries agreed that their top diplomats would hold talks before their foreign ministers meet on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York this month.

A spokesman for Pakistan's Rangers, a paramilitary border force, said Indian soldiers had opened fire with rifles after blasts from exploding rockets were heard on the Indian side. Pakistan denied firing the rockets, he said.

"When the rockets were fired, they fired on the Pakistani side," the spokesman, Nadeem Raza, said on September 12. "It was light firing from their side and we lodged a protest ... it was unprovoked."

But the inspector general of India's Border Security Force, Himmat Singh, said Indian troops had responded to Pakistani fire.

"Two rockets had exploded in the open Indian territory, approximately 2 kilometers inside Indian territory," Singh told reporters. "Our troops on the border, they retaliated immediately, very strongly, and fired into Pakistan territory," he said, adding India had lodged "a very strong protest."

Tentative Thaw

The two sides occasionally exchange fire along an old cease-fire line separating their forces in the disputed Kashmir region but firing on their international border to the south of Kashmir is very rare.

"We did not retaliate as it's the international border and the situation could have escalated," said the Pakistani spokesman.

The neighbors have fought three wars since their independence in 1947 and nearly went to war again in 2002 following a militant attack on India's parliament.

They launched a tentative peace process in 2004 but India broke it off after last November's assault on the Indian city of Mumbai, blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

The two countries have held three bilateral meetings on the sidelines of international gatherings since June but have yet to resume the peace process.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said on September 11 that top diplomats from the two countries would hold talks before their foreign ministers meet in New York this month.

Analysts are not expecting a breakthrough at the talks, but the confirmation their foreign secretaries would meet underscored a tentative thaw in relations.