EU defusing ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan

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India and Pakistan have traded accusations over cross-border firing in the disputed region of Kashmir that has killed at least 24 people since Friday.

Eight civilians, including two children, were killed after Pakistani artillery hit two areas on Tuesday, Indian officials said.

Pakistan said Indian gunfire killed six civilians on its side on Monday.

Tensions have flared over the long-running dispute since an Indian army base was attacked in September.

Shelling across the de-facto border in recent days has created a “tragic humanitarian crisis”, the chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir says.

Mehbooba Mufti called on both sides to calm the perilously hostile situation on the Line of Control (LoC), which has seen intense exchanges of fire between the two armies.

Indian army sources told the Press Trust of India that two Pakistani soldiers were also killed on Tuesday.

An Indian soldier and civilian were killed a day earlier, reports say. Six people were killed in Nakyal and Tatta Pani sectors on the Pakistani side on Friday and Saturday, the government in Islamabad says.

Both India and Pakistan have accused each other of violating a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

“It appears as if a full-blown war is going on between India and Pakistan,” Mohammad Saeed, a resident of Mohra village in Pakistan’s Nakyal sector, told Reuters news agency.

Hundreds of civilians in villages on both sides of the LoC have been evacuated in recent weeks, according to authorities on the Indian side.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned India’s deputy high commissioner in Islamabad to protest at the six civilian deaths on Monday.

It pressed India to “stop targeting villages and civilians” and condemned “unprovoked ceasefire violations”.

The territorial dispute between India and Pakistan over Muslim-majority Kashmir has been running for decades.

Both nuclear-armed states claim the territory in its entirety but control only parts of it. Two of the three wars fought between the two sides since independence have been over Kashmir.

After the 18 September army base attack on the Indian-administered side, the Indian military said it had carried out “surgical strikes” against suspected militants along the LoC.

Pakistan called the strikes an “illusion” and denied Indian claims it was behind the militant attack.

An investigation found that while India did not airdrop commandos to hit militant camps or conduct ground assaults deep into Pakistani-administered territory, troops did cross the LoC a significant distance to hit border posts and then pulled back.

European Union Ambassador Jean Francois Cautain said on Tuesday that the 28-nation ‘bloc’ has jumped into action, working towards defusing ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan.

“The EU is raising the issue of Kashmir with different stakeholders,” Ambassador Francois said in an interview. He said EU’s diplomatic efforts were an ongoing process and were not always visible to the people.

In response to a question, he said the EU was taking the issue of human rights violation with both India and Pakistan. He stressed that both sides were to peacefully negotiate through whole process.

The EU, he said, was among the largest providers of development aid to Pakistan. The EU Investment Bank had also agreed to provide Pakistan 50 million euros, Francois said. He added that exports from Pakistan during 2014-15 went up by 30 per cent due to the success of the EU GSP plus concession.

Regarding the EU GSP-Plus obligations, Francois said the country’s report was positive but the grouping wanted to see concrete results.

“Pakistan should explore more avenues to benefit from the EU trade by diversifying it,” he said adding that EU-Pakistan relations were ‘good and getting better’, he said.