Hopes of improved relations between India and Pakistan have been damaged after a week in which exchanges of fire have caused civilian casualties.

Tensions along the Line of Control, the de facto border between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, have been on the rise this week. Both sides accuse the other of unprovoked firing, and the situation is further complicated by the shooting down of an alleged Indian spy drone over Pakistani territory.

India, Pakistan Exchange Fire In Kashmir

Threat of further violence along the Line of Control

According to The Tribune, the Indian Army has accused Pakistan of provoking unrest, and threatened “unexpected damage.”

“There are certain elements across the border who want to create trouble on the Line of Control … we have to give them certain unexpected damage to so that they don’t repeat it in future,” said Lieutenant General KH Singh, commander of the 16 Corps, according to NDTV.

Armed forces along the Line of Control have been firing at each other for the past week. Indian fire has left four Pakistanis dead and 5 more injured.

“One girl was killed on the Pakistan side – we regret the incident,” Singh said.

India and Pakistan blame the other for recent incidents

According to iFreePress, the situation has worsened since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, and Indian forces regularly engage in unprovoked attacks on Pakistan.

Pakistani officials have refused to accept the blame for recent incidents, and have turned to diplomatic channels to protest.

For its part, India accuses Pakistani military officials of supporting militants who engage in operations against authorities in Indian-held Kashmir and carry out terror attacks in Indian cities, writes Andreas Preuss for Bulletin Leader.

“Our high commission in Pakistan has lodged a protest,” said one Indian source. “This matter was also taken up with Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi,” the source continued.

“The Pakistan army started shelling and firing on forward villages in Poonch sector when the people were busy celebrating Eid … targeting army posts and civilian areas, creating panic among the civil population,” said Indian defense spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Manish Mehta. Poonch is an area in the south of Kashmir, reports The Daily Times.

International community taking interest in developments

United Nations observers visited Pakistani villages affected by Indian shelling. They met wounded civilians in Saleh Pur, Chaprar & Malane in Chaprar Sector in Sialkot. A spokesperson for Inter Services Public Relations, the media wing of the Pakistani Army, claimed that its forces were responding to Indian aggression “accordingly.”

The recent clashes have thrown high-level talks into doubt. Following the accession of both countries to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, it had been hoped that relations between the two nations would thaw.

A groundbreaking meeting between Modi and Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the SCO summit in Ufa, Russia, led to an agreement that the national security advisers of the two nations would meet and discuss ways of combating terrorism. However a date for the meeting has not been set due to ongoing violence in Kashmir.

Recent incidents jeopardize potential for improved relations

The talks were also endangered when Pakistan claimed to have shot down an Indian spy drone last week.

However New Delhi denies that the drone was an Indian vehicle.”The photograph of the drone in question indicates that it is not of Indian design nor of any UAV category held in the inventory of the Indian armed forces,” Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told the press in New Delhi on Thursday.

Experts have since specified that the drone in question was a DJI Phantom 3 quadcopter. After examining photographs of the vehicle, experts stated that the Chinese-made UAV would not have been carrying sensitive military technology.

The downing of the drone and the period of intensified exchanges of fire come at a time where tensions are usually reduced in Kashmir. Eidul Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, has previously provided an opportunity for both sides to make gestures of peace. This year there was no break in the regular exchanges of fire.

On the contrary, the conflict between the two neighbors became more apparent than usual. Relations are entering a pivotal period in which officials from both nations have the chance to work towards peace and prosperity rather than conflict. Both China and Russia have expressed a desire for India and Pakistan to resolve their differences in the interest of regional development.

Commentators are worried by the intensity of the firing and its impact on civilians. Hopes of improved relations have been replaced by fears of renewed fighting, and politicians on both sides should work to defuse the situation before the opportunity to make lasting progress in improving relations is lost.