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2 Indian Soldiers Die in Kashmir Attacks


At least two Indian soldiers were killed Monday in separate attacks by suspected militants in Indian-administered Kashmir. The killings came as Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged heavy fire across their frontier for a fourth day.

Suspected separatist militants carried out a series of attacks against Indian security forces north of Jammu, the winter capital of Indias state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The attacks took place as Indian and Pakistani troops traded artillery, mortar and small arms fire along the line of control, the cease-fire line that divides Kashmir, and along the international border near Kashmir. Thousands of people who live along the border have fled their homes in recent days.

In New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee met with opposition lawmakers, something he has been doing for several days, in a move to gain support for diplomatic, and possibly military action against Pakistan. Mr. Vajpayee will make a rare trip to Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, on a fact-finding mission.

India says Pakistan helps separatist militants cross into Indian Kashmir, a charge Pakistani officials deny. Last week suspected separatist militants killed more than 30 people, mostly women and children when they attacked an army camp, triggering the current crisis.

Touring front line positions on Monday, Farooq Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and a member of Prime Minister Vajpayees coalition government, said war with Pakistan will only come if diplomatic efforts fail to end what he calls cross border infiltration. "We do not want to have a war. That is something we have said is the last option. Every option before that will be exhausted and after exhausting all of the other options then the last thing that will be left is war," Mr. Abdullah said.

Other senior Indian government officials seem less inclined to pursue diplomacy. The country's influential Home Minister L.K. Advani said on Monday that it is time for his government to change the way it responds to what he called a proxy war in Kashmir.

Even as senior Indian officials pursue diplomacy, India's military is preparing for possible military conflict. On Sunday, the Ministry of Defense ordered all paramilitary troops along the border to be brought under direct army control. India's coast guard was also placed under navy authority.

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