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US Diplomat Speaks Out Against Infiltration of Militants in Indian Kashmir - 2002-05-15

One day after 34 people died in a militant attack in Indian-administered Kashmir, a senior U.S. diplomat says the infiltration of separatist militants into the region must stop. Senior Indian officials say they will retaliate for the killings.

Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca says the killings in Kashmir were designed to undermine any chance for peace and stability in the region.

On Tuesday, militants attacked a bus and an army camp, killing soldiers and civilians, including family members of army personnel at a base about 15 kilometers south Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir State.

Speaking in New Delhi, Wednesday, shortly before she departed for Pakistan for talks with President Pervez Musharraf, Ms. Rocca said the infiltration of separatist militants into Indian Kashmir from Pakistan-controlled territory must stop. "Infiltration is counterproductive and must stop. Terrorism is something that is unacceptable, no matter where it is, whether it is in India, Pakistan or in the United States," Ms. Rocca said. Pakistani officials have condemned Tuesday's attack and have rejected Indian allegations that Pakistan supports militants who carry out attacks inside Indian Kashmir.

Indian officials stepped up their criticism of Pakistan, Wednesday. Defense Minister George Fernades says Pakistan is "directly responsible for the attack." Mr. Fernandes said "All that I can say at this point is that it is a situation that calls for punishment. What that punishment should be needs to be deliberated upon. But we cannot certainly have this kind of terror "go unpunished." Speaking in parliament, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said an all-party of meeting of India's political parties will address the issue. Mr. Vajpayee called the Tuesday's killings a heinous crime and said India will have to retaliate for them. India and Pakistan are in the fifth month of a military standoff, with hundreds of thousands of troops massed along their common border. The crisis was sparked last December, after suspected Islamic militants attacked India's parliament.

Secretary Rocca said the United States will continue to encourage India and Pakistan to try and settle their differences through dialogue. She also says Washington is deeply concerned about the level of tension between the two nations.