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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK

World: South Asia

India pushes on with offensive

An Indian machine-gunner prepares to fire in Kargil

India has pressed ahead with its military offensive against suspected militant infiltrators in Kashmir, a day after US President Clinton asked Pakistan to persuade them to pull out.

Kashmir Conflict
It said operations to flush out the infiltrators from their positions in the mountains have been successful, but said there were no plans to cross the Line of Control into Pakistan.

[ image: A Pakistani soldier displays shells fired by India]
A Pakistani soldier displays shells fired by India
The BBC's Altaf Hussein in Srinagar reports that the chief of India's air force visited the frontline in Kargil and Drass.

Air Chief Marshal A Y Tipnis told journalists that air strikes on militant positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control had been successful but prolonged, because the militants were spread out along ridges in the area.

The air chief also said his pilots were facing a disadvantage by what he called a self-imposed restriction - not to cross the Line of Control under any circumstance.

(Click here to see a map of the area)

Diplomatic war

Owen Bennett-Jones reports from Pakistan's side of the Line of Control
Meanwhile, India and Pakistan engaged in a diplomatic war of words over the death of an Indian pilot and six soldiers.

India summoned Pakistan's deputy high commissioner to lodge a strong protest over the alleged torture and killing of its men, accusing Pakistan of breaching the Geneva Conventions.

On Wednesday, Pakistan summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal and told him that India was conducting "vicious propaganda" to whip up "war psychosis," and denied India's charges.

The BBC's Islamabad correspondent, Owen Bennett-Jones, says Pakistani military officials have reported intense artillery firing by India along the Line of Control. They have said the Pakistan army will continue to respond as long as India continues to fire.

US says militants should withdraw

On Tuesday, President Clinton entered the fray, urging Pakistan to persuade the militants to withdraw.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz responds to the US call
Pakistan responded by saying they were not under its control.

The Pakistani Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, told the BBC that the militants "had their own dynamic".

Mr Clinton said, in a telephone call to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, that the militants were an obstacle to peace.

The US has also called for both sides to return to the negotiating table.

But India has said talks with Pakistan are possible only after the infiltrators have withdrawn.

[ image:  ]

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