August 1999 News

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India rejects Kashmir talks as army camp hit

8 August 1999
Reuters

NEW DELHI- Separatist guerrillas attacked an Indian army camp in Kashmir overnight and New Delhi said on Sunday there could be no talks with Pakistan while it sought to stir up fresh trouble in the restive region. "Attempts are on to create trouble in parts of Jammu and Kashmir, violence cannot be the road to talks. There must be an atmosphere," Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told an election rally on Sunday. "Talks should be fruitful and take us to results, not (be just) for the sake of talks," he said.

One soldier was killed and three were injured in the rocket attack on the 68 Mountain Brigade camp at Trehgam in the Kupwara district late on Saturday, the third raid on security forces' camps in India's Jammu and Kashmir state in 72 hours. The Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted Home (Interior) Minister Lal Krishna Advani as saying that Pakistan had started reviving a "proxy war" in Kashmir after the debacle suffered by its forces in the recent two-month confrontation in Kargil.

Indian police say hundreds of militants have crossed into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir from Pakistan recently, and Vajpayee said India would give a fitting reply to the militancy in the state. "We will fight this strongly," he said. The PTI said Pakistan's envoy to India had proposed that the two countries' leaders hold their first meeting since the recent conflict in divided Kashmir during the U.N. General Assembly session in New York next month.

Pakistani High Commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi told the news agency in an interview that dialogue between the two arch-rivals "need not be held hostage" to India's general election, which gets under way on September 5. He said pre-conditions set by New Delhi for talks could only impede the process of normalising relations agreed by the two prime ministers in the Pakistani city of Lahore last February. India and Pakistan came close to war in May, when India launched a massive ground and air offensive against hundreds of guerrillas who had infiltrated into the Indian side of the Line of Control (LOC) dividing the Indian- and Pakistani-run sectors of Kashmir.

The infiltrators withdrew from the Kargil sector on the northern heights of Kashmir last month under a combination of military and diplomatic pressure. Pakistan has maintained that the militants were Kashmiri freedom fighters, while India said they were overwhelmingly Pakistani army regulars. Saturday's attack on an India army camp came amid Indian newspaper reports that hundreds of militants had crossed over to the Indian side of the Kashmir Line of Control.

The Indian Express quoted the Border Security Force's inspector general in Kashmir's Baramullah region as saying that about 1,200 foreign militants were occupying high ridges on the Indian side of the cease fire line, waiting to strike. The Asian Age quoted the state's director-general of police, Gurbachan Jagat, as saying about 1,000 infiltrators had crossed into the Indian sector since mid-May this year. Jagat told Reuters last month that an estimated 800 militants had entered the Indian side from Pakistan during the previous two months.

India accuses Pakistan of stoking terrorism in the two thirds of Kashmir that India controls. Pakistan, which holds the rest, says it offers only diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination. More than 25,000 people have died in the decade-old insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state.

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