SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan waging proxy war in Kashmir, Narendra Modi says on visit to region

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 10:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 7:39pm
AFP

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Narendra Modi accused Pakistan of waging a proxy war in Kashmir yesterday as he became the first Indian prime minister to visit the town of Kargil since more than 1,000 people died there in a battle fought 15 years ago.

Modi landed in the remote Himalayan town a day after India and Pakistan traded accusations of ceasefire violations on their disputed border.

He is the first Indian leader to visit the highly sensitive area since a 1999 Pakistan army incursion triggered a conflict between the two countries.

Since then, India has maintained a heavy military presence in Kargil, in the remote mountainous region of Ladakh.

Kargil, where more than half the 20,000-strong population is Muslim, is often cut off in winter. It was decked out with flags from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party as about 5,000 locals listened to him speak.

Earlier Modi spoke to soldiers in Leh, capital of the Ladakh region, and condemned what he called a "proxy war by Pakistan" and said troops were "suffering more casualties from terrorism than from war", the government's Press Information Bureau reported.

Modi, a hardline Hindu nationalist, also pledged to build new roads and develop tourism in the restive Muslim-majority state, where poverty and underdevelopment have strengthened anti-government sentiment.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim the region in full but administer separate partial areas. They have fought two of their three wars over its control.

Modi's visit comes a day after Pakistan summoned a senior Indian diplomat over a cross-border firing incident near the eastern city of Sialkot, which the foreign ministry said had left at least one civilian dead.

The Pakistani authorities accused India of a "ceasefire violation" and registered a formal protest.