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Palestine, Kashmir worlds apart: India

June 26, 2002

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NEW DELHI, June 25: India on Tuesday rejected Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s comparison of the situation in the Palestinian territories to that in disputed Kashmir, saying the two were “worlds apart.”

“We have absolutely rejected this; the two situations are worlds apart,” Indian foreign ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao told reporters.

In an interview published on Monday in the British newspaper The Independent, Musharraf described the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir as “another Palestine in the making.”

“I keep telling the United States and everyone: we must understand the dangers of this region,” Musharraf said.

“These dangers can only be averted if we resolve the Kashmir dispute. We must do that. Otherwise, there is another Palestine here in the making.”

On Monday, New Delhi dismissed as “verbal calisthenics” a separate Musharraf statement to Newsweek magazine in which he said he had not given any assurance to permanently end what India calls the infiltration of Islamic rebels into its zone of Kashmir.

EXCHANGE OF FIRE: Indian and Pakistani troops traded gunfire and mortar shells overnight along their disputed border in Kashmir but no one was injured, officials said Tuesday.

Pakistani soldiers fired at least 40 mortar shells overnight at the border village of Sangral in the R.S. Pura sector, some 35kms south of Indian Kashmir’s winter capital Jammu, a spokesman for India’s Border Security Force said.

The Indian forces opened retaliatory fire, as small-arms fighting was reported in other sectors in southern Kashmir, the spokesman said.

The cross-frontier duels have been less intense in the past two weeks, though, after India said there had been a decrease in the number of militants crossing into its zone of Kashmir, a key condition it had set for a de-escalation with Pakistan.

At least 130,000 villagers living near the disputed border have fled their homes since mid-May.

3 KILLED: Three Muslim activists were killed in separate shootouts overnight in Indian-held Kashmir, police said on Tuesday.

The Indian army and counter-insurgency police shot dead two freedom fighters in separate encounters in the southern Rajouri and Poonch districts, both bordering Azad Kashmir.

Police said one of the slain belonged to Lashkar-i-Taiba.

Security forces recovered an automatic rifle, a rocket projectile gun, 11 grenades, two radio receiver sets and other ammunition from the two encounter sites, police said.

In searches in the village of Sangla in Poonch district, police also found 15 hand-grenades, they said.

Police said an activist of Kashmir’s leading movement Hizbul Mujahedin was also killed in an intra-group clash in the northern Kupwara district. —AFP