Fighting flares in Kashmir despite calls for peace

Saturday, June 15, 2002

NEW DELHI, India -- Shelling on both sides of the Kashmir frontier Friday killed six people despite a plea by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for India and Pakistan to hold their fire.

As he left for Washington on Thursday after two days of talks in New Delhi and Islamabad, Rumsfeld said a cease-fire would "begin a process of easing some of the lingering hostilities" between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

His call received a cool response from India Friday and none from Pakistan.

"We examine all options and take action at an appropriate time," Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said when asked about Rumsfeld's push for a halt to shelling. He said India announced a moratorium on hostile action in November, but the situation had changed.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee convened a meeting of his Cabinet Committee on Security to review his discussions with Rumsfeld.

Between visits to the subcontinent by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage last week and Rumsfeld this week New Delhi lifted a six-month ban on Pakistani aircraft flying over Indian space and pulled back warships from positions close to Pakistani.

Pakistan also recalled warships and submarines from undisclosed locations in a gesture intended to match India's, a Pakistan navy spokesman said Friday.

Steps taken this week by India followed an assurance from Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he ordered his army to stop militants from moving across the Kashmir frontier to stage bombings and armed assaults on civilians and security forces in Indian territory.

Fewer militant attacks

A senior army officer in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state in Indian-controlled Kashmir, said Friday there had been noticeably fewer militant attacks and battles between guerrillas and Indian security forces since Musharraf's assurances last week.

Infiltration by Pakistan-based militants "seems to have gone down a little but I don't think it has stopped," Lt. Gen. V.G. Patankar said.

Nevertheless, suspected militants blew up part of a bridge in Indian-controlled Kashmir Friday, halting traffic but harming no one.

India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring militant groups fighting for independence of the Himalayan region or its merger with Pakistan. Islamabad says it provides moral and diplomatic support only.

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