May 2004 News

India In Kashmir Militant Pledge

24 May 2004

New Delhi: Military officials in Indian administered Kashmir have pledged to step up action against militants after an attack on a bus left 33 people dead. The Border Security Force (BSF) head told a memorial service the attack was a wake-up call for his forces. About 15 soldiers and civilians were also injured in Sunday's mine attack. The violence was the deadliest in Kashmir for months, and comes as India and Pakistan are discussing ways of ending their decades-long dispute. We will further strengthen, widen and deepen our relations with Pakistan Indian foreign minister Natwar Singh The attack came hours before a new government began its first full day of business in Delhi - officials in both India and Pakistan seemed intent on maintaining peace efforts, despite the bloodshed. Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, said he had spoken to new Indian foreign minister, Natwar Singh. 'Let me tell you that his response was extremely positive, and we agreed to continue the peace process,' President Musharraf told a group of students in Islamabad. Mr Singh pledged to seek progress in ties with Pakistan, and did not mention the Kashmir attack. 'Spectacular' Earlier, BSF chief Ajay Raj Sharma had said Sunday's violence 'should give us alarm'. We will intensify our efforts to identify, locate and neutralize the perpetrators BSF chief Ajay Raj Sharma 'We have to be more careful and alert, and look for the militants who are hiding in the state,' he told a wreath- laying ceremony in the summer capital, Srinagar. Mr Sharma said the militants had been looking for a 'spectacular strike' since India's general elections, and that it was the job of his forces to 'neutralise' them. He said that highway patrols and security would be increased following the landmine attack on the bus. Kashmir's leading militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, says it carried out the attack to avenge the killing of senior commanders in recent months. Nuclear talks The Kashmir dispute is at the heart of decades of animosity between India and Pakistan, and two of the three wars between them have been over the region. Mr Singh said that his previous experience as high commissioner to Pakistan would give him a good understanding of the complex relations between the two countries He did not refer to a decision to postpone nuclear weapons talks with Islamabad that were due to take place from 25 May to 26 May. India delayed the talks so that the new government has time to settle in. The talks have now been scheduled for next month. The new government has vowed to find a peaceful solution to the 14-year insurgency in Kashmir where around 40,000 people have been killed.


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