NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India fears separatists in Kashmir could stage attacks during the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to draw global attention to a region where a two-decade old revolt against New Delhi has revived this year.
Home Secretary Gopal Pillai on Wednesday told CNN-IBN television on Wednesday that the country was on alert to prevent attacks, such as the killing of 35 Sikhs in Kashmir by militants in 2000, when then-U.S. President Bill Clinton visited India.
“That’s the type of fear we have, that innocent civilians will be killed,” said Pillai, the top internal security official.
“Definitely they (separatists) will like to see if they can have any spectacular event where they can get worldwide attention.”
Obama is due to visit India in early November, at a time when India has voiced its disappointment the United States is not fully forthcoming on sharing intelligence linked to the 2008 militant attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people.
Pillai said Washington had not passed on information early enough on David Headley, a U.S. citizen linked with the Mumbai attacks, despite intelligence available with the United States that he had been in India on a reconnaissance trip.
“I think they have shared, but I would appreciate if it had been much more than what they have been doing,” Pillai said,
“We could say that we were disappointed that the name of David Headley was not provided, if not pre-26/11 at least post 26/11. So that when he came subsequently in March 2009 to India at least at that time we could have nabbed him here.”
Headley pleaded guilty in March to a dozen U.S. terrorism charges related to the Mumbai attacks.
The U.S. ambassador to India discounted any notion that Washington was withholding information from New Delhi.
“India is our strategic partner and our friend and someone whom with we share intelligence on a regular basis,” Timothy Roemer told reporters.
New Delhi’s rule in Kashmir, India’s only majority-Muslim region, is a lightning rod for Islamist militants, who have launched several strikes in India and Indian interests abroad.
The Himalayan region is claimed in full by India and Pakistan but ruled by the nuclear-armed rivals in parts.
India says Pakistan backs the militants and provides support for attacks. Pakistan denies the charges.
On Wednesday, Pakistani soldiers shot for the second time in three days at Indian military posts across the line that divides the region. India says these firings are to provide cover fire for militants trying to infiltrate Kashmir.
In the last four months, Kashmir has seen the largest pro-independence demonstrations in two decades, with more than 100 protesters killed by police bullets.
Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy last week added to calls for the state to secede from India. Opinion polls show large majorities of residents in favour of independence from both India and Pakistan.
Wednesday marked the 63rd anniversary of the coming of Indian troops to Kashmir and authorities detained separatist leaders and imposed a curfew in many parts of the region to prevent protests.
Eight people were injured when stone-throwing protesters clashed with police in northern Kashmir, police said.
Indian troops first entered Kashmir on October 27, 1947, hours after the kingdom’s ruler acceded to India in return for military aid against an invasion by Pakistani-backed tribespeople.
The region has since been racked by movements for independence or for joining Pakistan, but violence broke out only in 1989. Since then over 47,000 people have been killed.
But international focus on the region has waned in recent years, with attention diverted by the war against Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Reporting by C.J. Kuncheria and Sheikh Mushtaq in SRINAGAR; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee
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