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Straw peace mission reaches Pakistan

Straw will wrap up his South Asia mission in Pakistan, where he arrived Saturday from New Delhi
Straw will wrap up his South Asia mission in Pakistan, where he arrived Saturday from New Delhi  


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has arrived in Pakistan for talks with senior officials in the final leg of his South Asia peace mission.

Straw, who flew into Islamabad Saturday, was due to hold talks with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inam-ul-Haq.

It was not clear whether he would meet with President General Pervez Musharraf.

On his third mission to South Asia this year, Straw is under pressure to lean on Islamabad to act against Islamic militants attacking Indian targets in the disputed Kashmir region.

In New Delhi on Friday Straw held talks with Indian leaders who said India would make no further concessions to ease tensions with Pakistan, until Islamabad acted against anti-Indian Islamic militants.

India demanded Pakistan do more to destroy militant bases and curb insurgency.

"Until infiltration stops and the infrastructure of terrorism is dismantled, we will not be in any position to spell out any further de-escalatory steps," Indian external affairs ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao told reporters.

India accuses Pakistan of backing Islamic militants, fighting New Delhi's rule in Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charges, saying that it gives only moral support to groups fighting what it calls a "freedom struggle" in the disputed region.

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Straw conceded that although tension on the subcontinent had eased slightly in the last six weeks, the "situation remains difficult."

"We are glad to know that progress has been made to reduce the level of tensions, but obviously further steps need to be taken before we have a dialogue," the British foreign secretary told reporters on Friday.

"What is obvious is that one of the keys to a peaceful solution is an end to infiltration ... And that is something to which all parties are committed."

It is Straw's first visit since late May when tempers on the subcontinent peaked and the threat of war became a very real possibility.

More than 1 million troops were posted along the shared Indian-Pakistani border and the Kashmiri Line of Control, which divides the disputed region between them.

The standoff in South Asia was sparked by a suicide raid on India's parliament in December and a May attack on an Indian army camp near Jammu.

Fears of a major conflict subsided after Islamabad bowed to intense international diplomatic pressure and promised to crack down on militant insurgency from Pakistani soul into Indian controlled Kashmir.

Recent violence

Straw's visit to South Asia follows what has been a bloody week in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

On Saturday Indian police used tear gas and batons to control the crowds at an anti-violence rally in Srinigar, Indian-Kashmir's summer capital. More than a dozen people were arrested, including the leaders of two Kashmir separatist groups.

Earlier, Indian police placed three senior leaders of the moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference under house arrest, after spotting several gunmen at the rally, according to the police.

The spate of violence in the disputed region of Kashmir in the last few days has fuelled fears of a new row between Islamabad and New Delhi.

An Indian police officer checks the identity card of a veiled Kashmiri woman at a checkpoint in Srinagar
An Indian police officer checks the identity card of a veiled Kashmiri woman at a checkpoint in Srinagar  

Indian security forces were involved in a deadly shootout with suspected Islamic militants holed up in a mosque in Banihal, about 180 kilometers (110 miles) east of Jammu. (Full story)

The most serious episode occurred on Saturday, when militants threw grenades and opened fire on slum dwellers near Indian-Kashmir's winter capital Jammu, killing at least 27 Hindus.

An Islamic separatist revolt has raged in Kashmir since 1989, killing more than an estimated 25,000 people in India's only Muslim-majority state.

New Delhi has accused Pakistan of providing funding and training to militants it accuses of carrying out a series of attacks against Indian targets.

Pakistan denies the charges, saying that it gives only moral support to groups fighting what it calls a "freedom struggle" in the disputed region.

Kashmir has been the trigger for two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since the two were created by Britain's partition of the subcontinent at independence in 1947.



 
 
 
 






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