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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK

World: South Asia

India expels 'last of Kashmir infiltrators'

An Indian Air Force Jaguar takes off for the front

India says it has dislodged the last Pakistani-backed infiltrators from its side of the Line of Control in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Kashmir Conflict
"Three pockets of intrusion in Drass, Batalik and Mushkoh have been evicted. There is no Pakistani presence on Indian territory," Lieutenant-General NC Vij, head of military operations, told a news conference in Delhi.

(Click here to see a map of the area)

General Vij said that Indian and Pakistani troops were now occupying key positions along the Line of Control, which divides the region between the two countries.

He also said forces all along India's frontier with Pakistan would remain on high alert until some sort of agreement had been reached to defuse the situation.

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Delihi: "Overall conflict has gone for now"
The announcement effectively marks the end of the 10-week conflict in the region between Indian forces and intruders that India said were largely regular Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan insisted that the infiltrators were Kashmiris fighting against Indian rule.

Pilgrimage security increased

[ image: India has stepped up security for the Amarnath pilgrimage]
India has stepped up security for the Amarnath pilgrimage
Meanwhile, the Indian authorities have stepped up security in Jammu and Kashmir for the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath temple, south of Srinagar.

The move follows a call by the militant Harakat ul-Mujahideen group for the pilgrimage to be ended.

The pilgrimage began on Saturday.

Similar threats in past years have led to landmine explosions and grenade attacks along the 345km pilgrimage route.

Cool response to inquiry

There has been a sceptical reaction to the Indian Government's announcement of an inquiry into the events surrounding the infiltration of large numbers of Pakistani-backed forces in Kashmir.

A four-member committee was appointed following a special cabinet meeting on Saturday.

The Times of India said the public had "every right to be cynical" about the inquiry.

It added: "Generally speaking, official committees in India have not succeeded in shedding much light on the subject of their enquiry."

[ image:  ]
The Hindu newspaper commented that the cabinet decision to set up the committee seemed "to be calculated more at silencing the opposition and taking the wind out of its sails" than getting to the truth.

However, the Indian Express said the probe was "intrinsically good news."

The committee is meant to submit its findings in three months.

The Hindu noted that this meant that the findings would be only be known after voting was over in the forthcoming elections.

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has already dismissed suggestions that there was a breakdown in intelligence gathering or communication that led to the military being rudely surprised by the infiltration.

[ image:  ]

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