Fresh concern mounted last night in the dispute between India and Pakistan
after Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, said he believed Islamist militants
were still crossing into Kashmir despite repeated promises from Islamabad that
all infiltration had stopped.
He said US monitoring showed incursions across the ceasefire line dividing
the disputed Himalayan state had been reduced but not halted. "We are still not
able to say that they have been stopped although they have gone down," he said.
After meetings in New Delhi and Islamabad Mr Powell pressed India to take more
"de-escalatory measures" to ease tensions between the two nuclear-armed nations.
He said India should guarantee that state elections in Kashmir will be free and
The secretary of state also sounded a rare positive note when he said he believed
Islamabad and New Delhi could yet sit down to negotiate over the bitter 55-year
"I think the possibility of a dialogue in the near future is something that
can be achieved," he said in Islamabad yesterday. "The tension has come down significantly."
The two sides last met for talks in Agra last summer but the meeting broke up
The row over Kashmir brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war two months
ago when Islamist militants, who have fought a guerrilla war in Kashmir since
1989, attacked an Indian army camp killing 34 people, including soldiers' wives
Up to a million troops are still stationed along the border. Under pressure
from Washington Pakistan's leader, General Pervez Musharraf, issued secret orders
telling his army to stop militants from crossing into Kashmir. For years the military
has covertly funded and trained the militants as a proxy army in the disputed
Yesterday Gen Musharraf again insisted infiltration had stopped. "It is not
taking place now. I don't have to do anything because we've already done it,"
he said. But the attacks in Kashmir have continued. Just hours before Mr Powell
arrived in India four people were killed and five wounded when attackers threw
a grenade into a market near Srinagar.
Privately Indian officials have said there will be no more threats of war before
state elections in Kashmir in early October. Militant groups have promised to
disrupt the elections which in the past have widely been seen as rigged. India
has jailed several prominent Kashmiri politicians in recent months and has refused
to allow international observers to monitor the elections.
Yesterday Inam-ul Haq, Pakistan's minister of state for foreign affairs, said
it would be up to the Kashmiri people to decide whether to take part in the vote.
Mr Powell said he told Indian officials that the vote should be "inclusive." He
said separatist Kashmiri politicians jailed in the run-up to the vote should be
freed and allowed to take part and that observers should be allowed to monitor
His words marked an unusual criticism of India. In recent visits to the subcontinent
to discuss Kashmir Mr Powell's disapproval has more often focused on Pakistan's
support for the militants. But Washington badly needs Islamabad's support in the
continuing hunt for al-Qaida and Taliban loyalists, many of whom have found shelter
among Pakistan's militant underground network.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002