June 1999 News


India Wins G8 Support Over Kashmir

20 June 1999

NEW DELHI, June 20 - India won key diplomatic support from the G8 group of major powers on Sunday in its battle with arch-foe Pakistan over Kashmir.

The G8 condemned the breach of the Line of Control in the bitterly disputed Himalayan territory and called for an end to the fighting which has raged across the de facto border dividing the two countries for the past month. But with the prospects of a diplomatic solution remote, Indian troops pressed on with their campaign to drive out guerrillas perched on ice-capped mountains in northern Kashmir.

Home (interior) Minister Lal Krishna Advani said the conflict would remain a "limited war".

"The invasion has already been contained and it is only a matter of time before it is completely foiled," the Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted Advani as saying.

The army was on a state of alert in case the conflict spread to other areas on the long border which divided Pakistan from India after independence from Britain in 1947.

In the northwestern state of Punjab, an estimated 30,000 soldiers from infantry, artillery and armoured battalions have taken up positions along the 530-km (330-mile) frontier.

Pakistan denied local media reports that its security forces along the border, which is patrolled by paramilitary rangers, had been put on alert.

Officials in Kashmir said the inhospitable terrain and snowy weather was hampering operations against militants holed up on ridges.

Army officials reported intense infantry combat, including hand-to-hand encounters, and intermittent shelling in various sectors of northern Kashmir.

India launched air strikes on May 26 against what it calls Pakistan-backed infiltrators on its side of the control line. Pakistan denies this and says they are freedom fighters. It accuses India of stirring tension by using warplanes against the militants and intensifying artillery fire across the control line. The last of the two countries' three wars, in 1971, led to the creation of the Line of Control the following year.

The G8 statement implicitly backed India's intrusion claim. "We are deeply concerned about the continuing military confrontation in Kashmir following the infiltration of armed intruders which violated the Line of Control," the G8 leaders said in a statement after their annual economic summit.

"We regard any action to change the status quo as irresponsible," the statement said. "We call for the immediate end of these actions, restoration of the Line of Control and for the parties to work for an immediate cessation of the fighting, full respect in the future for the Line of Control and the resumption of the dialogue..."

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said New Delhi wanted to resolve the crisis bilaterally. However, he said during a visit to Bangladesh that there were no plans for talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at present.

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