India Pulls Out About 3,000 Troops From Kashmir
20 November 2004
Jammu: India pulled out around 3,000 troops from Kashmir on Saturday in a planned withdrawal of army units from the region, officials said, as the peace process between New Delhi and Islamabad came under strain this week. Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a move to give momentum to the sluggish India-Pakistan peace process, announced New Delhi would withdraw troops in Kashmir which has been the cause of two out of three wars between the two nuclear rivals. He cited a sharp drop in separatist guerrilla attacks in the Himalayan territory as the reason for the reduction. India has at least 400,000 troops in Kashmir. 'Around 3,000 troops of three different army units involved in counter-terrorism operations have been de-inducted from the border district of Rajouri on Saturday,' a defence official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters. The soldiers left their bases in convoys of trucks, jeeps and buses from the Hindu-dominated Jammu region of India's only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. Separately, an army officer said troops were not withdrawn from the military Line of Control that divides Indian and Pakistani Kashmir. 'The (withdrawing) troops were involved in counter-terrorism operations, patrolling and sanitisation and surveillance of the area,' Brigadier D.K. Chowdhary told reporters. Army officials did not give further details. Though India has not said how many troops it plans to withdraw from Kashmir, some army officers have put the number at over 20,000. INDIAN WARNING In the first pull-out after Singh's announcement, hundreds of soldiers withdrew from the Muslim separatist rebel stronghold of Anantnag in southern Kashmir on Wednesday, coinciding with his tour of the region where New Delhi has been battling a 15- year-old separatist revolt. But Singh's reiteration during his visit that the region was an integral part of India and there could be no redrawing of borders has sparked irritation in Islamabad with President Pervez Musharraf saying the 'vibes' from New Delhi were not encouraging. India still plans to pull out hundreds of more troops from the Jammu region next week, officials said. India accuses Islamabad of abetting the revolt in Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charge, but says it supports the 'legitimate aspirations' of Kashmiris. Close to 45,000 people have been killed since 1989 in the revolt. Though both countries have strengthened diplomatic, sporting, cultural, economic and transport links since they started a peace process last year, they have made little headway over Kashmir. Pakistan said on Saturday that an Indian warning to the United States over proposed U.S. arms sales to Islamabad was unwarranted and incomprehensible. India told the United states on Friday new U.S. arms sales to Pakistan, a main ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, could harm improving New Delhi-Washington ties as well as a promising dialogue between the South Asia's two nuclear- armed rivals. 'It is incomprehensible that India, which has massive weaponisation and weapon acquisition programmes, should object to Pakistan's modest defence requirements,' the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.