NEW DELHI (Reuters) - More than 200 suspected militants are trying to cross into Indian Kashmir from Pakistan, India’s national security adviser said on Saturday, accusing Islamabad of trying to stoke violence in the region.
Pakistan condemned India’s decision last month to revoke the constitutional autonomy of Kashmir and Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday vowed the fullest possible response to India’s actions in the disputed territory.
“There are about 230 persons ready to infiltrate from different parts of Kashmir,” Ajit Kumar Doval, national security adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told reporters.
The number is based on radio intercepts and intelligence from the ground, military officials said, adding that some militants had already been caught by Indian security forces.
“A large number of weapons are being smuggled and people in Kashmir are being told to create trouble,” said Doval, who is considered one of the architects of the policy to withdraw Kashmir’s special status and integrate it fully into India.
India imposed a clampdown in India Kashmir in early August to prevent large scale violent protests. Some curbs have been eased, but mobile phone and internet services are still curtailed because they may be used to spark unrest, Doval said.
“We would like to see all restrictions go, but it depends on how Pakistan behaves. It’s a stimulant and response situation,” Doval said.
“If Pakistan starts behaving, terrorists don’t intimidate and infiltrate,” he added. “Pakistan stops sending signals through its towers to operatives, then we can lift restrictions.”
India has long accused Pakistan of training, arming and sending militants to Muslim majority Kashmir where it is fighting a nearly 30-year revolt.
Pakistan denies direct support but says it gives moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.
Doval cited an attack on a major apple merchant in Indian Kashmir as an example of Pakistan encouraging violence against people who are carrying on their businesses.
The merchant operated from Sopore, the fruit basket of the region and about 45 kms from Srinagar, and from where 700 truck deliveries of produce had been made in recent days.
Doval said Pakistan and groups based there have frowned upon such signs of normalcy and rebuked militants inside Kashmir for failing to stop the trucks.
“After the trucks moved, there were repeated messages from Pakistan asking for this to stop,” Doval said.
On Friday, two suspected militants attacked the merchant’s home near Sopore, wounding his 25-year-old son and two-year-old granddaughter.
The assailants spoke the Punjabi language, suggesting they had come from Pakistan, and were on the run, Doval said.
Last month, suspected militants killed a 65-year-old grocer for keeping his shop open on the outskirts of Kashmir’s main city Srinagar, police said.
Indian officials have vowed a strong response if a major militant attack is traced back to any Pakistan-based militant group.
In February, the countries engaged in an aerial clash after Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy in Kashmir.
Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Darren Schuettler
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