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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
US envoy upbeat on Kashmir
An Indian soldier mans a bunker in the central Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir
The neighbours have massed men in flashpoint areas
US peace envoy Richard Armitage has said the crisis between India and Pakistan over disputed Kashmir seems to be easing.


If tensions are high, there is always a risk of war

Richard Armitage,
US envoy
"Tensions are a little bit down," he said after talks with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in Delhi at the end of a two-day visit to the region.

Earlier on Friday, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said there was "no alternative" to peace with Pakistan, in a dispute which has seen a million troops massed by both sides along the common border.

Kashmiri on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control emerges from his bomb shelter near the front line
Heavy shelling has driven Kashmiris away or under cover
On Thursday, Mr Armitage left Islamabad heartened by assurances from President Musharraf that Pakistan would do everything possible to avoid war between the nuclear neighbours.

The US assisant secretary of state, a frank-speaking foreign policy veteran, gave no hint of a breakthrough, but said both sides wanted to avoid war.

He acknowledged, however, that there was still a risk of one breaking out.

He said he had also passed on Pakistan's commitment to stop once and for all the infiltration of militants into Indian-administered Kashmir.

Cross-border militancy




I have seen two Indo-Pak wars in 1965 and 1971 and still the pain is there. War is so ugly and destructive

Dr Ashok Kumar, Oman
The government in Delhi has steadfastly refused to consider dialogue with Pakistan or the de-escalation of its forces until it has evidence that Pakistan has cracked down on what it calls cross-border terrorism.

Mr Armitage said no decision had been made on how to monitor an end to incursions by Muslim rebels over the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India.

Enlarge image Enlarge map
BBC Delhi correspondent Jill McGivering says verification that militants have stopped crossing the border is a key issue.

India has always insisted its own monitoring is adequate and has forcefully resisted any suggestion of a third party, such as the US or the UK, patrolling in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Washington, and other governments, believe that the risk of rapid escalation, even to the level of a nuclear exchange, is dangerously high.

Fighting intensifies

Indian and Pakistani forces have been trading heavy artillery and gunfire along their border on an almost daily basis since an attack on India's parliament in December which Delhi blames on Pakistan-based militants.


Rising tension:

1 October 2001:
38 killed in attack on the Kashmir assembly in Srinagar
13 December 2001:
14 killed in attack on the Indian parliament building in Delhi
14 May 2002:
More than 30 killed in attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir
21 May 2002:
Moderate Kashmiri politician Abdul Ghani Lone shot dead


Both sides exchanged mortar and machine-gun fire on Friday, and police in Indian-administered Kashmir said Pakistani artillery fire had killed three villagers and injured 11 others near the LoC.

Up to 1,000 people were forced to flee their homes, police there said.

On the other side of the LoC, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, police said five civilians had died in Indian shelling.

Three of the victims, two of whom were children, were killed in southern Kotli district.

Shells also landed for the first time in deserted areas outside Kotli town itself, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the LoC, sending residents fleeing in panic, officials said.

India has also launched extra security for railways, bridges, canals and dams in the Punjab region in what could be preparation for wartime internal security measures.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"There remains the question, how to verify that cross border infiltration has stopped"
Rahul Bedi, Defence Analyst
"The situation on the ground really remains the same... tensions persist"
Ronen Sen, Indian High Commissioner to UK
"Nobody seriously questions that infiltration is taking place"
Abdul Kader Jaffer, Pakistan High Commissioner to UK
"They need to understand that terrorism is something different"

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See also:

05 Jun 02 | South Asia
05 Jun 02 | South Asia
06 Jun 02 | South Asia
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06 Jun 02 | South Asia
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