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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 19:03 GMT
Kashmir violence keeps tensions high
Last October's attack on the Srinagar assembly
Last October nearly 40 died at the Srinagar assembly
Fresh violence in Indian-administered Kashmir threatens to derail diplomatic moves to ease military tensions between India and Pakistan.

One policeman was killed and more than 20 other people were injured in grenade attacks near the state assembly in the Kashmir summer capital Srinagar, police there said.

There has also been more violence at the line of control in Kashmir with six Pakistani soldiers reported killed.

The latest attacks coincided with a South Asia regional meeting in Nepal at which the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan shook hands - their first formal contact since the current crisis began a month ago.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas, reporting from Kathmandu, says the brief encounter between India's Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Abdul Sattar was cordial - but it is still too early to say if it will lead to formal talks between the two sides.

Relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated sharply since December's attack on the Indian parliament in Delhi, which India blames on Pakistan-backed militants.

Both countries have mobilised large number of troops on the their common border, with India threatening military action if Pakistan fails to crack down on militant groups operating from its territory.

Western leaders have urged the two nuclear powers to pull back from the brink of war, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to make another call for restraint when he visits the region in the next few days.

But correspondents say the renewed violence is likely to fuel tensions between the two countries.

Pakistan blamed

In the latest violence at the line of control, the Indian army says its troops have killed at least six Pakistani soldiers in response to an escalation in mortar shelling from the Pakistani side in Naushera sector.

While Wednesday's attack in Srinagar took place when suspected militants threw a grenade near the main gate of the assembly building.

Migrant child
Civilians have been fleeing the border area

It was the second attack on the assembly: last October nearly 40 people were killed in a suicide bombing there.

India says the latest attacks in Srinagar were carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based group of Kashmiri militants.

Jaish-e-Mohammad is one of two groups India also blames for the attack on the national parliament in Delhi which left 14 people dead.

India insists that Pakistan hand over 20 named militants in connection with the Delhi attack.

Pakistan says it cannot do so unless India provides it with evidence of their involvement.

Support 'ended'

On Wednesday, however, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf was reported to have cut off government support for several militant groups in Kashmir, including Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Unnamed Pakistani officials told the New York Times newspaper that the president had ordered the closing down of a wing of the country's military intelligence agency, ISI, which provided backing for militants fighting in Kashmir.

A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman declined to confirm the report.

The officials quoted by the New York Times said Pakistan would continue to provide "moral and political" support to groups with local roots.

They said such groups would not get any military training or weapons and would be required to purge all non-Kashmiri militants from their ranks.

Militants relocate

President Musharraf's government has come under international pressure to reign in the militant groups it supports in Kashmir.

It is reported to have arrested some 100 followers of Jaish-e-Mohammad and the other group accused of involvement in the Delhi attack, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

However, there are doubts whether the arrests will have the intended effect. Officials of Jaish-e-Mohammad told the Reuters news agency that they would move their offices to the Indian-administered part of Kashmir to escape the Pakistani crackdown.

Lashkar-e-Taiba announced a similar move last month.

The BBC's Ben Brown
"It will not take much to start a war between India and Pakistan"
The BBC's Jonathan Charles in Islamabad
"If the diplomacy fails, the (Pakistan) government says it is ready"
See also:

03 Jan 02 | South Asia
Thousands flee rivals' war moves
02 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair's 'peace trip' played down
01 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK calls for Kashmir peace talks
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