Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s powerful army chief left Wednesday for a strategically located secret area bordering India to witness a military exercise of ground and air power amid increasing tension with India over Kashmir. Planes, tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons will be used during Wednesday’s exercise, which is aimed at checking preparedness of the army in reacting to any hostile situations, two officials said. The drills come three days after Indian fire in Kashmir killed seven Pakistani soldier.
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The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif will witness the exercise less than two weeks before he retires after completing his three-year term. The government has not announced who will be the new army chief.
Tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals have increased in recent months after militant attacks on Indian military facilities in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. India has blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attacks, a charge Pakistan denies.
Despite pleas from the United Nations, the two sides have continued to exchange fire in the disputed Himalayan region. The violence has forced thousands of villagers on the Pakistani side to flee for safety.
India says it has been retaliating for Pakistani violations of a 2003 cease-fire. Two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 have been fought over their competing claims to Kashmir. Each has administered part of Kashmir since 1947.