India's army chief says infiltration of Islamic militants from Pakistani territory into Indian Kashmir dropped by more than half this year. The issue of crossborder infiltration continues to cloud relations between the two South Asian rivals.

General S. Padmanabahan told reporters that incursions by Muslim militants across the line of control that divides Kashmir has fallen substantially following a ten-month military standoff between India and Pakistan.

On a visit to the eastern Orissa state, the Indian army chief said, "if infiltration was 100 percent in 2001, it is 46 percent in 2002."

India deployed hundreds of thousands of troops along the border with Pakistan last December, after blaming Pakistani-backed Islamic militants for a terror attack on its Parliament. Pakistan also deployed troops along the border.

The military standoff ended last month, when India said it would recall its troops from all areas except Kashmir. Islamabad has also promised to demobilize its troops.

General Padmanabhan said the troop buildup had served its purpose by sending a message to Pakistan on the question of infiltration. But he stressed the need for vigilance, saying it would take time to put a complete end to incursions by Muslim militants.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting infiltration by Islamic militants into its territory to fuel a separatiast insurgency in Kashmir. Islamabad says infiltration stopped since Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf pledged to end it earlier this year, although "rogue elements" may be entering India.

Although Indian officials say there is a decline in the number of Muslim militants entering India, the issue of infiltration continues to prevent fresh diplomatic initiatives that could address long-term problems between the two countries.

New Delhi says it will not start a dialogue with Pakistan until incursions end completely.

Indian officials have also given conflicting signals on whether Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will attend an annual summit meeting of South Asian nations due to be held in Islamabad in January.

The summit meeting is not connected with bilateral matters, but political analysts say Indian leaders appear unwilling to share a platform with Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf despite the reduction in military tensions between the two countries.