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US Official Visits India to Discuss Kashmir


A senior U.S. diplomat is visiting New Delhi, Friday, holding talks with Indian officials on continuing tensions with Pakistan and regional security issues. India plans to hold state elections in Indian-administered Kashmir in just a few weeks.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is holding talks with Indian officials on continuing tensions in the Kashmir region.

Indian officials say the cross-border infiltration of separatist militants from Pakistan-controlled territory into Indian-administered Kashmir is continuing despite a pledge by Pakistan to seal the border. Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf says his government is doing all it can to stop militants from crossing into Indian territory but a few may slip through the porous border region.

In his discussions with India's Defense Minister, Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor, Mr. Armitage is also discussing upcoming state-assembly elections in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Separatist political leaders have refused to take part in the elections. Secretary of State Colin Powell has called on India to release several separatist political leaders held in detention, and allow international observers to monitor the elections. Indian officials have rejected the requests saying the elections are an internal issue.

Mr. Armitage will not meet with India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, or with India's newly appointed foreign minister, Yashwant Sinha who is out of the country. Following his talks in New Delhi he travels to Islamabad for discussions with President Musharraf and other senior officials.

Recently some Indian officials have complained that U.S. officials are not putting enough pressure on President Musharraf to put a complete halt to cross-border infiltration in Kashmir, out of a fear of jeopardizing Pakistani-support for the U.S. led war on Terrorism. U.S. officials reject the charge saying terrorism in India is no different from terrorism anywhere else.

Speaking in London on Thursday, India's influential deputy prime minister, LK Advani, said if international pressure does not put a stop to cross-border infiltration, India will act on its own.

"I wish to reiterate that we have resolved to take our fight against cross border terrorism to the finish. While international support would certainly help us in our fight against cross-border terrorism, we are absolutely clear that this struggle will ultimately have to be fought and won essentially on our own strength," he said.

While tensions have eased somewhat between India and Pakistan since Mr. Armitage's last visit to the region in June, they remain high. Both countries have kept hundreds of thousands of troops massed along their borders, and there are fears that if violence escalates in Kashmir during the upcoming polling, tensions will increase once again between South Asia's two nuclear neighbors.

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