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Straw Stresses Diplomacy to Solve Kashmir Dispute - 2002-07-20

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has called on Pakistan to do more to end infiltration by Islamic militants across the disputed border in Kashmir. He has also urged India to improve human rights conditions in the two-thirds of Kashmir it controls. The British leader has made the statement at the end of his second visit to the region since May.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met Pakistani officials on Saturday, a day after his talks with Indian leaders in New Delhi. He is in the region as part of ongoing diplomatic efforts to ease border tensions between India and Pakistan.

Speaking to reporters after his meetings in Islamabad, Mr. Straw said the South Asian nations need to settle their dispute over Kashmir through talks.

"I think its plain that it is in the interest of both countries and particularly the peoples on both sides of the line of control in Kashmir, for there to be a diplomatic solution to this problem, which has of course sadly continued since independence in 1947," he said.

Mr. Straw says that intense international efforts have led to a reduction in infiltration by Muslim insurgents across the line of control dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

"Obviously we all want to see a permanent end to infiltration across that line of control [dividing Kashmir]," said Mr. Straw.

India says that Pakistan is still sending Islamic militants into Indian Kashmir to carry out terrorist acts and fuel an armed insurgency in the region.

Officials in Islamabad reject the charges, saying there is no infiltration taking place across the disputed Kashmir border. They say Indian leaders are making these allegations to avoid discussions to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Recent incidents of violence in Indian Kashmir have provoked New Delhi to deploy hundreds of thousands of troops along the border with Pakistan. Islamabad has also taken counter measures, raising fears of a conflict between them.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit India and Pakistan later this month to urge both the nations to ease tension in the region.