A series of clashes that began this month has undermined a push by Pakistan's new civilian government to improve ties with old rival India. Lodging a protest with the Indian envoy appeared to mark a diplomatic escalation, but Pakistani officials say they still hope to hold talks.

A security official said one soldier was killed near Rawalakot in the Poonch district, about 130 kms from the capital, Islamabad, "due to unprovoked Indian firing".

A second soldier was killed later in the day and two others were wounded 45 kms away in Hotspring in the Tatta Pani area further south. India said it came under automatic weapons fire in roughly the same area in the evening and reported "effective retaliation" by its own soldiers, but made no mention of casualties. Another Pakistani soldier had been killed on Wednesday.

The violence came two weeks after the killing of five Indian soldiers along the so-called Line of Control (LoC) that separates the two sides in the Himalayan region.

India said the five were killed by Pakistani forces and said it had given its army a free hand to respond. Pakistan denied involvement and the government has issued a series of conciliatory statements despite constant tit-for-tat firing since.

"Pakistan will also continue to seek dialogue and resolution of all outstanding issues with India peacefully," the Pakistani government said in a statement on Thursday.

"The ceasefire should be maintained in letter and spirit. All military and diplomatic channels should be used to prevent ceasefire violations," it added.

A later statement said Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani called the Indian High Commissioner T.C.A Raghavan to the foreign office in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad to express "serious concern over the continued and unwarranted ceasefire violations." Previous complaints by both sides have been made at a lower level in the diplomatic hierarchy.

 (Agencies)

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