NEW DELHI —
The Indian prime minister has slammed what he called a “proxy war” being waged by Pakistan in Kashmir. The Indian leader was visiting the Indian side of the disputed region to inaugurate power projects as part of a push to develop infrastructure in the Himalayan state bordering Pakistan and China.
Addressing troops in the remote Kargil town in Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Indian soldiers were suffering more casualties from fighting terrorism than from war.
Modi says our neighboring country (Pakistan) has lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism which kills innocent people.
The Indian leader was alluding to India’s long standing accusations that Pakistan supports Islamic terrorist groups operating in Indian Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region they want to free from Indian control. Pakistan denies it.
It was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Kargil, where Pakistan-backed infiltrators seized mountain peaks in 1999, sparking a military operation by India to evict them. Since then, India maintains a huge military presence in the small town.
The brief comments targeting Pakistan come against the backdrop of efforts by both countries to lower tensions since Modi took office three months ago. Following an outreach by the Indian leader to his Pakistani counterpart, the South Asian rivals are set to revive a stalled dialogue later this month.
Much of Modi’s day-long visit to Kashmir was devoted to underlining his commitment to development of the Himalayan region, which adjoins Pakistan and China, and where lack of development and jobs has fuelled anti-India sentiment.
The Indian prime minister inaugurated two hydro-power projects - one in Kargil and the other in Ladakh, a cold desert. He also laid the foundation stone of a power transmission line.
Addressing people in Leh, the main town in Ladakh, Modi pledged to build roads and boost tourism.
He said development must be such that it transforms the lives of common people.
Observers say the new government is making a big push to build infrastructure such as roads, railway lines and power projects in the Himalayan region.
This was Modi’s second visit to Kashmir since taking office. Last month, he inaugurated a rail project in Jammu and a power project in the Kashmir valley.
The two quick visits come as the state prepares for regional elections later this year, and Modi woos people to improve his party’s presence.