SRINAGAR, October 10- Fighting in the disputed Kashmir region eased on Friday after days of cross border strikes by Indian and Pakistani forces left at least 17 civilians dead and forced thousands more from their homes.
The lull in fighting followed some of the worst violence in a decade in the region, which is divided between the nuclear armed neighbours.
“The firing last night was less intense than the previous night and confined to a smaller area,” said an official with India’s Border Security Force on condition of anonymity.
An Indian police official told AFP 10 civilians had been injured overnight on the Indian side of the de-facto border due to the fighting, but there were no deaths.
Pakistan’s army on Thursday confirmed that five more civilians had died on its side of the disputed northern Kashmir region and in eastern Punjab province, doubling the toll to 10. Seven civilians have died on the Indian side this week.
The lull in fighting came after UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman urged the two sides to engage in dialogue to find “a long term solution for peace and stability in Kashmir”.
Hopes of an early resumption in peace talks between the two countries were raised when new Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart to attend his swearing in ceremony in June.
But Modi said last month that Pakistan needed to show more “seriousness” before dialogue between the historic adversaries could resume.
Modi upped the rhetoric on Thursday, saying India’s soldiers had “responded to the aggression with courage,” and describing Pakistan as “the enemy”.
He made the comments at a campaign rally for elections due to be held in Maharashtra and Haryana states next week. Some analysts have suggested Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party may be using the violence in Kashmir to put on a show of force ahead of the polls.
Fighting between Indian forces and rebels seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan has killed tens of thousands — mostly civilians — since 1989.
The two countries have gone to war over the territory twice, in 1947 and 1965, and fought a smaller scale conflict in 1999.
Violence has fallen in the region since 2004, when the countries began a peace process a year after signing a ceasefire agreement.
While the agreement has largely held, minor clashes occur regularly along the disputed border known as Line of Control (LOC) as well as along the internationally recognised frontier dividing Indian Kashmir from Pakistan’s Punjab province.