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Indian President Visits Kashmir Amid Tight Security


Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is on a three-day visit to Indian Kashmir, the troubled region where a Muslim separatist insurgency has raged for 13 years.

President Kalam's tour began in Kashmir's winter capital, Jammu, where he visited a police academy and the popular Hindu shrine of Vaishnodevi. He also met school children in the predominantly Hindu area.

Mr. Kalam praised the role of the police in battling nearly a dozen Islamic militant, groups fighting to separate Muslim-majority Kashmir from India.

But President Kalam asked security forces to use modern technology to reduce the violence in the state, where countless battles between soldiers and suspected militants have claimed the lives of more than 35,000 people since the rebellion began.

"We should make efforts to reduce the number of casualties occurring in each operation," he said. "The advent of new technologies has provided a new dimension for policing, surveillance, and dealing with terrorists, maintaining law and order in the state."

At the Hindu shrine of Vaishnodevi, the Muslim president prayed for return of peace to the troubled state.

During his tour, Mr. Kalam will also visit the mostly Buddhist region of Ladakh, and Muslim-majority Srinagar, the heart of Kashmir's separatist rebellion.

Nearly 25,000 police have been deployed to protect the president and the route along which he travels.

But violence broke out in the region, despite the tight security. Police officials say 10 people were killed in two gun battles. They say the victims included soldiers and suspected militants.

Few Indian leaders have visited Kashmir since the insurgency erupted in 1989, and turned the region into a war zone.

But Kashmir has been relatively calm since Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee paid a visit to Srinagar in April, and set in motion a peace initiative with rival Pakistan.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in its entirety by both. The two countries have fought two of their three wars over the region.

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