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India wants terror spotlight on Kashmir

Kashmir protest
An Indian police officer throws back a stone at Kashmiri Muslim protesters in Srinagar, India  

By Maria A. Ressa in New Delhi

NEW DELHI, India -- Although India has thrown its weight behind the US-led strikes against Afghanistan, authorities say the war against terrorism must extend beyond its borders.

Grumbling from inside India highlights the uneasy alliance cobbled together by the United States in its fight against terrorism.

At the center is Kashmir and the long-running dispute between bitter nuclear enemies foes India and Pakistan.

The Indian government has long accused Pakistan of arming and training Islamic militant groups to carry out terrorist acts.

Pakistan denies these accusations, but those denials and its recently warming alliance with the United States have only sparked tensions in India.

"India is sulking," says Professor Brahma Chellaney of the Center for Policy Research.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf gives his first press conference since the U.S. airstrikes on Afghan targets (October 8)

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Part two of Musharraf's first press conference (October 8)

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"Every statement it can extract from Washington, every symbolic step that Washington can take will help to improve the Indian Prime Minister's position because he is an embattled Prime Minister. He has been talking tough but acting weak."

At issue: last week's suicide attack against the provincial legislature in Srinagar, Kashmir that killed 38 people.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is becoming a lone, moderate voice within the cabinet. Many here are demanding stronger, unilateral action.

"The Indian Prime Minister is under pressure to act in response to the major terrorist strike on Kashmir's legislature a week ago," says Chellaney.

The Pakistan-based group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, initially claimed responsibility for the attack. It was formed by Pakistani cleric Maulana Mazood Azhar, shortly after he was released from an Indian prison in 1999.

Azhar was one of three jailed Islamic militants freed by Indian authorities in exchange for passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines 814.

Indian and U.S. authorities now see a link between that hijacking and the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Freed with Azhar was Ahmed Umar Syed Sheikh, whom authorities say used a pseudonym to wire $100,000 to suspected hijacker Mohammad Atta, who then distributed the money in the United States.

Atta allegedly piloted a passenger plane into one of the World Trade Center towers almost a month ago.

Both Sheikh and Azhar were members of Harkat-ul-Mujahedin, an Al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic militant group fighting for Kashmiri independence from India.

Indian authorities have also said that 1999 hijacking was done with the help of Pakistan's ISI or Intelligence Service.

Although Pakistan has denied that accusation, Indians believe Pakistan should also be held accountable in this war against terrorism.

"To target the father and spare the child will be no solution to terrorism in this part of the world or internationally," Chellaney adds.


• Government of India

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