India asks Pakistan to rein in Islamic militants

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s prime minister on Thursday asked Pakistan to prevent Islamic militants from using its territory as tensions rise between the longtime rivals following the recent killing of five Indian soldiers in fighting along the disputed Kashmir border.

India feels that Islamabad is not doing enough to rein in Islamic militants. It says the Pakistani military has nurtured the militants to fight a covert war over Kashmir, though Pakistan denies the claim.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that for relations with Pakistan to improve, it is essential that Islamabad prevent the use of its territory for any anti-India activity.

Singh made the comment in a speech marking the anniversary of India’s 1947 independence from Britain. He is under pressure from India’s political opposition to adopt a tougher policy toward Pakistan.

The killing of five Indian soldiers last week which New Delhi blamed on Pakistani troops could threaten recent overtures aimed at resuming peace talks between the nuclear-armed rivals. The dialogue was interrupted after earlier fighting between Indian and Pakistani soldiers on the disputed Kashmir border in January.

“Recently, there was a dastardly attack on our soldiers on the Line of Control with Pakistan. We will take all possible steps to prevent such incidents in the future,” Singh said Thursday.

A Pakistani military official also accused Indian troops of shelling the Battal sector of Pakistan-held Kashmir on Tuesday, killing one civilian and seriously wounding another. India denied the charge, saying Pakistani troops initiated the firing.

Singh is likely to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New York next month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting and the two are expected to give impetus to efforts to normalize ties.

India’s main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party asked Singh to call off his meeting with Sharif to show India’s anger over the killing of the Indian soldiers.

The Pakistani army and its militant proxies have a history of using violence to sabotage outreach to India by civilian leaders, and suspicion about the generals’ intentions still runs high in New Delhi.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since they received independence from Britain. The region is divided between the two countries and is claimed by both.

A 2003 cease-fire agreement has largely calmed the disputed border. The two countries occasionally accuse each other of violating it by firing mortars or gunshots, and several soldiers were killed on each side in January in cross-border attacks.

The latest round of violence began last Tuesday when, according to the Indian military, 20 heavily armed militants and Pakistani soldiers crossed the Kashmir border and killed five Indian troops.

The Pakistani military denied that its soldiers killed any Indian troops and accused Indian soldiers of killing a pair of civilians and wounding two others along the border over the last week.

On Thursday, an Indian army officer said Pakistani troops have been firing small arms, automatic weapons and mortars intermittently at Indian positions in Mendhar sector since Wednesday night.

There have been no injuries to Indian troops, the officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. He said the Indian troops retaliated.

Omar Abdullah, the top elected official in India’s Jammu-Kashmir state, said on Twitter that two civilians, including a porter working for the army, were injured in the Pakistani firing.

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