Kashmir crisis: Pakistan offers India talks

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol the fenced border with Pakistan in Suchetgarh, southwest of Jammu January 16, 2013. Both Pakistan and India, with troops on either side of the Line of Control in Kashmir, deny provoking recent clashes

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Pakistan's foreign minister has called for talks with her Indian counterpart to defuse military tensions in Kashmir.

Hina Rabbani Khar's remarks came hours after the two armies agreed to "de-escalate" tensions after a meeting of their chiefs of operations.

Tensions have risen following deadly exchanges along the border last week.

The violence has plunged the neighbours into the worst crisis in relations since the Mumbai attacks of 2008, blamed on militants based in Pakistan.

"Instead of issuing belligerent statements by the military and political leaders from across the border and ratcheting up tension, it is advisable for the two countries to discuss all concerns related to Line of Control (LoC) with a view to reinforcing respect for the ceasefire," Ms Khar's office said.

AFP news agency quotes her as saying that the recent border clashes had "created questions" and added that Pakistan was "open" to dialogue between foreign ministers to end the dispute.

India has not commented on Ms Khar's remarks so far.

On Wednesday the Pakistani army's director of military operations agreed to the de-escalation after calling his Indian counterpart to "protest strongly" a "ceasefire violation" by Indian soldiers that killed a Pakistani soldier along the LoC on Tuesday night.

India has denied the allegation, which comes after separate incidents last week, in which two Indian soldiers and two Pakistani soldiers died.

The Pakistani commander said strict orders had been passed to troops on the LoC to observe a ceasefire that has been in place since 2003, a spokesman for the Indian army, Col Jagdeep Dahiya, told the BBC.

Both sides deny provoking the clashes, amid fears that a fledgling peace process under way since last February could unravel, says the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi.

On Tuesday, Indian PM Manmohan Singh said the killing of the Indian soldiers last week - one of whom India says was beheaded - was "unacceptable".

Claimed by both countries, Kashmir has been a flashpoint for over 60 years and two wars have been fought over it. Exchanges of fire in the disputed area are not uncommon but rarely result in fatalities.

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