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Kashmiri Fighters Say Pakistan Has Closed Border, India Deploys Troops

BY Admin  May 30, 2003 at 12:10 PM EDT

Despite news of a possible crackdown on cross-border movement, Indian military officials announced the deployment of 10,000 more troops to the troubled province.

A senior member of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a group labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S., reportedly told the Reuters news service that Pakistan had denied his group’s effort to send fighters across the so-called Line of Control [LOC] between Pakistan- and India-controlled Kashmir.

“Since early April, mujahideen [holy Islamic warriors] are not being allowed to cross the LOC,” the official said. “Summer is the time when Pakistani mujahideen cross into Kashmir to help Kashmiri fighters. It is a big blow.”

If true, the claim by separatists could indicate a major step forward in continuing peace effort between the two nuclear rivals. India has long accused Pakistan of aiding Islamic militants fighting Indian rule in the Himalayan province that borders both countries.

Although there is no way to confirm the claims of the militant leader, the U.S., an increasingly important go-between in the region, has said the number of infiltrations have dropped, although not stopped. India continues to accuse Pakistan of allowing largely unfettered access across the LOC.

The reports of a Pakistani crackdown have angered many Islamic hardliners who feel the move is betraying the Kashmir cause.

“By not letting us cross into occupied Kashmir, Pakistan is demoralizing Kashmiris,” Ameeruddin Mughal, a member of the banned Harkat-ul-Mujahideen group, told Reuters.

Many militants quoted by news organizations said they would continue to cross the border regardless of Pakistan’s reported effort.

Despite the news coming out of Pakistan, neighboring India continued to bolster its security efforts in the war-torn region. The India Defense Ministry announced Friday it was sending 10,000 more troops to the region to improve effort to combat militants within Kashmir and to tighten security along the border.

The move comes after India officials said they had uncovered a series of militant bases within Indian controlled territory. Both the Associated Press and Reuters reported that the soldiers would aid in an ongoing operation against militants that included an assault on a series of mountain-top bunkers in Pir Panjal range.

According to Indian authorities, more than 60 rebels have been killed in the latest operation, but that as many as 350 more were in the area.

Despite the continued clashes within Kashmir, India’s prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee said that the recent warming of relations between India and Pakistan were essential and that he was determined to bring peace to Kashmir — one of the most difficult issues between the two.

“Declaring that he would ‘retire and accept defeat’ if his current peace initiative with Pakistan fails, Vajpayee has said he is prepared to enter into negotiations with President General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and even make ‘serious compromises’ on Kashmir provided the latter creates the ground for mutual confidence,” Sultan Shahin wrote in Friday’s Asia Times.

The negotiations, endorsed by opposition members in India’s parliament, appeared to be continuing largely behind the scenes.