India hints at Pakistan role in Kashmir unrest

Fri Aug 6, 2010 1:51pm GMT

By Nigam Prusty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's interior minister hinted on Friday that Pakistan could be behind weeks of violent anti-India protests in the disputed Kashmir region, a move that could hurt the nuclear-armed rivals' attempts to improve ties.

This is the first time New Delhi has linked Pakistan to the violence in Kashmir that has killed nearly 50 people since June. Earlier India had said Pakistan-based militants were inciting trouble in Kashmir, a region divided between India and Pakistan and which both claim in full.

"Pakistan appears to have altered its strategy in influencing events in Jammu and Kashmir," Palaniappan Chidambaram told the Indian parliament during a debate on the protests, among the biggest since a separatist revolt against Indian rule broke out in 1989.

"It is possible that they believe that relying upon civilian unrest will pay them better dividends. But I am confident if we are able to win the hearts and minds of the people ... those designs can be foiled."

There were fresh pro-independence protests in several places in Kashmir on Friday. At least two people were wounded when police opened fire on thousands of protesters in Sopore town in north Kashmir.

The minister's comments could be seen by Islamabad as a provocation, damaging prospects for improving ties that plummeted after the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and derailed a sluggish four-year-old peace process with Pakistan.

So far, the latest violence in Kashmir has appeared to have little impact on relations.

The two sides last held peace talks in July and those ended in acrimony over the attacks, even though the dialogue itself is seen as a tentative step towards improving ties.   Continued...

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