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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
India announces troop reduction
Indian troops near the Line of Control in Jibril.
Troop reduction could lead the way to talks
The Indian Government has announced a limited withdrawal of troops from its border with Pakistan.

It is seen as the most significant breakthrough in easing a stand-off between the countries in almost a year.

Defence Minister George Fernandes told reporters after a meeting of the cabinet's security committee there would, however, be no scale-down in military deployment in Kashmir.

The two countries between them have deployed more than a million soldiers in the disputed state of Kashmir, since an attack on the Indian parliament last December.

There has been no immediate reaction from Pakistan to Delhi's decision.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Islamabad said they would wait until their embassy in Delhi reported back with full details.

Pressure

Earlier, a defence spokesman told the BBC that India's National Security Advisory Board had advised the prime minister to carry out a "calibrated withdrawal of troops in a phased manner from the international border".

Troops stationed in Kashmir will remain at their present levels because the Indian government has been encouraged by what it says was a victory for democracy in Kashmir in recent state elections.

Indian troops patrol the streets in Srinagar
Violence intensified in Kashmir in the election run-up

But other reasons have influenced the decision.

Troop morale is said to have become very low in some places among soldiers who have spent month after month at a state of alert in often inhospitable conditions, and maintaining an army of 750,000 on the front line has been very expensive.

India has been under international pressure to take steps to reduce tension with Pakistan.

The United States and the European Union urged Delhi to begin talks with Islamabad, now that crucial elections have taken place in Pakistan and Kashmir.

Analysts also say India cannot keep troops deployed indefinitely.

But Indian Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani has said the results of Pakistan's elections increased India's concern about what he called cross-border terrorism because the elections had strengthened Pakistan's army but not its democracy.

He alleged that Islamabad had not fulfilled its pledges on ending infiltration and said he was not hopeful that cross-border militancy was about to diminish.

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11 Oct 02 | South Asia
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