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Indian, Pakistani armies to meet over LoC clashes

 JAMMU, Jan 13 (IANS): The Indian and Pakistani armies will have a "flag meeting" Monday, after Pakistani troops opened fresh fire at Indian border posts in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said Sunday.

The meeting, to be led by brigadiers, will be held at 1 p.m. at Chakan da Bagh on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir's Poonch district.

India had been seeking a brigadier-level meeting to discuss escalating tensions on the LoC but Pakistan, which had called for a UN probe into the incidents, responded only Sunday.

Meanwhile, Pakistani troops again fired at Indian border posts along the LoC, which divides Kashmir between the two countries, triggering a reponse from the Indian Army.

The latest firing in Krishna Ghati sector in Poonch began overnight at 10 and continued an hour past midnight Saturday, an official told IANS.

The military said the Pakistani firing was a violation of the ceasefire effective on the LoC since 2003, and the Indian Army offered a "calibrated response to silence Pakistani guns".

"Pakistani troops used medium and heavy machine gun fire. There was no loss of life or injury on the Indian side," a source said.

This was said to be the seventh ceasefire violation since Jan 8 when Pakistani troops intruded into Jammu and Kashmir and killed and beheaded two Indian soldiers, causing nationwide outrage.

One of the heads was taken away by the intruders. Pakistan has denied that its troops were involved in the killings.

Since then, tensions have soared along the winding LoC.

Trade between the Indian and Pakistani Kashmir, which takes place four days a week (Tuesday to Friday), stopped Jan 9 when Pakistani authorities did not open the border gates on the LoC.

An official in the Poonch administration told IANS that the visas of more than 30 Pakistanis who have come to Jammu and Kashmir to meet their relatives would expire Monday.

"We will have to work on getting their visa extended," he said.

The cross-LoC bus travel and trade takes place at Chakan da Bagh in Poonch district of Jammu region and at Salamabad in the Kashmir Valley.

The LoC ceasefire agreement of November 2003 is considered the mother of all confidence building measures between India and Pakistan aimed at improving their bilateral relations.

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