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India advises citizens against travel to Pakistan

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has advised its citizens against travel to Pakistan, citing security reasons, the home ministry said on Tuesday, as ties between the two nuclear rivals continue strained.

National flags of India (R) and Pakistan are seen in Johannesburg September 24, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files

Thousands of Indian pilgrims, mainly Sikhs, travel to Pakistan’s Punjab province, home to some of the most revered Sikh sites including the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the 15th century founder of their faith.

Islamic militants have staged attacks on a variety of targets in Punjab province in recent times and there have been several bloody firefights between the militants and security forces.

“Government of India is of the view that it is not advisable for the Indian pilgrims to visit Pakistan in the prevailing situation when frequent terrorist attacks are taking place,” the ministry said in a statement.

Pakistani forces backed by heavy artillery have also been attacking Taliban insurgents since last week in a bid to gain control of militant strongholds in South Waziristan, a lawless northwestern region on the Afghan border.

“MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) has advised Indian citizens to avoid visiting Pakistan in view of (the) deteriorating security situation there,” the statement read.

India had asked citizens to be careful on visits to Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks last November, in which 166 people were killed in three days of carnage. It did not issue an official advisory at the time, however.

India suspended a 2004 peace process with Pakistan after the attacks, saying it could be resumed only if Pakistan acted to dismantle the “terrorist network” on its soil.

New Delhi blamed the attack on Pakistan-based militants it said were supported by some official agencies. Pakistan denied official involvement, but accepted that the attack was partly planned on its soil.

Senior officials of both countries have met a few times to mend fences since then, but have fallen short of deciding whether to restart the dialogue process, with India accusing Pakistan of not doing enough to bring the Mumbai attackers to justice.

Majority Hindu India and majority Muslim Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947 and nearly came to blows again in 2002.

(For more on Pakistan see: here)

Editing by Jerry Norton

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