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India says Pakistan making provocative troop moves

India says Pakistan making provocative troop moves

Author: Sanjeev Miglani
Publication: Reuters
Date: November 1, 2001

India accused Pakistan Thursday of carrying out provocative troop movements near the border in the bitterly disputed Kashmir region as tension between the nuclear foes mounted.

A senior Indian official said the Pakistani army had moved some offensive formations closer to the border, including along a sensitive stretch of the frontier dividing the Himalayan territory claimed by both countries.

"It is not dangerous but it is provocative," said the official who did not wish to be identified. In response, India had bolstered its defenses along the frontier, he said.

But Pakistan quickly dismissed the report as an attempt by New Delhi to blame Islamabad for raising tension across the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

"This now seems to be a belated effort on their part ... to put the blame on Pakistan to escalate the friction and tension," Pakistani spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi said.

"I think the Indian Armed Forces have very weak intelligence, if that's the conclusion they have made, if that's the information they have got," Qureshi said in Islamabad.

Tension has escalated along the India-Pakistan border in revolt-plagued Kashmir since U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan began last month.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf engaged in tough rhetoric this week, each vowing to repulse any military action by the other.

TENSION RISES DESPITE U.S. PLEAS

The escalating tension has come despite strong pressure by the United States on the foes, both of which have tested nuclear weapons, to tone down their hostile talk while it focuses on the military campaign in Afghanistan.

The neighbors have twice gone to war over Kashmir.

The official said a Pakistani armored brigade had moved closer to the border in the area opposite India's Akhnoor sector in the Jammu region where the two sides exchanged heavy gunfire last month.

"The fact is they have been moving (troops) in the last 21 days in trickles," he said.

"Given the tense geopolitical situation, we should have been informed by Pakistan of such large movement of formations," the official said, referring to the U.S. raids on Afghanistan to hunt down those Washington suspected were behind the attacks on the United States.

The official said until the latest Pakistani moves, Indian troop movements in Kashmir had been routine and no extra forces had been deployed.

The two armies engaged in another artillery and small arms duel in the Uri sector of Kashmir Thursday which ended around mid-afternoon, an Indian army spokesman said in the summer capital Srinagar.

He said the firing in Uri, located on the military line dividing Kashmir between the two countries, was aimed at giving cover to Muslim guerrillas trying to sneak into the Indian side of Kashmir.

Tuesday, an Indian soldier died and four were wounded in border firing in Uri, 60 miles west of Srinagar.

WINTER CLOSES PASSES

Indian officials say traditionally there is an influx of Muslim guerrillas into Kashmir before winter closes the passes in the Himalayan region.

Indian officials also said Vajpayee was unlikely to meet Musharraf when they travel to New York later this month for a U.N. General Assembly session.

New Delhi has insisted that Islamabad first give up support of rebels in Muslim-majority Kashmir before any talks.

Islamabad says it only gives moral backing to the separatists in Kashmir where more than 30,000 people have died since the revolt erupted in late 1989.

Islamabad had earlier accused India of trying to exploit the tense situation on its border with Afghanistan by massing troops along Pakistan's eastern flank.

But the Indian official reiterated previous statements that the army movements in Kashmir had been routine and linked with the onset of winter.

"Our movements do not have offensive content," he said.

Some Indian government leaders have advocated a strike on camps they say exist in Pakistan to train fighters for Kashmir.

The Indian official added there had been no reduction in the level of guerrilla activity in Kashmir since the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan began last month.

"The level of infiltration is one (guerrilla) every two days," the official added.
 


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