updated 1/18/2005 6:52:19 PM ET 2005-01-18T23:52:19

India accused Pakistani soldiers Tuesday of firing mortar shells across the dividing line in Kashmir in the first violation of a 14-month cease-fire between the South Asian nuclear-armed rivals.

The cease-fire was the longest since an insurgent campaign in the divided Himalayan province began in 1989. Both countries claim the mainly Muslim, former princely state in its entirety and have fought two wars over it.

A senior army official said there were no casualties on the Indian side, and Indian troops had not retaliated.

“It certainly is a violation of the cease-fire. This is the first time this has happened. We have exercised full restraint,” Maj. Gen. Deepak Summanwar told the private NDTV news channel. “Seven to eight rounds of mortars were fired. All our patrols ... have been alerted.”

Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, speaking in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, said he was not aware of the incident.

Pakistan fires back
The reports of firing came hours after another setback to the ties between the traditional South Asian rivals, which are now pursuing peace. Islamabad accused New Delhi of deliberately scuttling talks on a disputed dam that India is building on its side of Kashmir and appealed to the World Bank to help resolve the issue.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said the dispute will cast a “bad light” on the peace dialogue.

For decades, India and Pakistan regularly fired at each other across the cease-fire line, killing soldiers and civilians and damaging homes and farmland. However, they agreed to a cease-fire in November 2003 along the disputed Kashmir frontier and international border.

Indian military officials in Kashmir said Tuesday’s firing may have been carried out to provide cover to a batch of Islamic militants crossing into the Indian side of Kashmir from the Pakistan-controlled part of the Himalayan region.

Rebel campaign
Rebels based in Pakistan routinely cross over to India to wage attacks as part of their campaign to carve out a separate homeland or merge the Indian-controlled area into Pakistan. Five such rebels were killed Monday night in the mountainous Achhar sector, said B.D. Sharma, inspector general of the Border Security Force.

India accuses Pakistan of allowing militants to train in camps on its territory and supporting attacks that kill civilians, police and soldiers. Pakistan denies the allegations.

Nearly 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the conflict.

Military officials in Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu-Kashmir state, said the firing took place just north of Punch town, about 150 miles northwest of Jammu at the army’s Durga Post.

India and Pakistan are holding regular talks on a series of disputes that have haunted their relations since 1947, when British colonialists left the subcontinent and the new Islamic nation of Pakistan was carved out of Indian mainland.

They have since fought three wars, two of them over their rival claims over Kashmir.

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