NEW DELHI, India (AP)
Two Kashmiri boys were killed in militant attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Saturday, as India’s defense minister said he didn’t see an immediate resolution to a tense border standoff with rival Pakistan.
The United States, Britain and other nations called on their civilians and embassy staffs to leave India on Friday, as it appeared the nuclear-armed neighbors were inching closer to war.
Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said Friday that the situation was “stable,” but he appeared to back away from that stance on Saturday.
“There is still no coming closer in sight,” he told The Associated Press in Singapore, on the sidelines of an Asian defense summit.
In Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s Jammu-Kashmir state, a 14-year-old boy, Bilal Ahmad Dagga, was killed and 14 civilians injured in a grenade explosion.
The grenade, which also injured two Indian soldiers, was lobbed into the street by suspected Islamic militants, the state police control room said.
In Nihalpora, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of Srinagar, one unidentified guerrilla was killed in a gun battle with Indian paramilitary forces, according to Border Security Force officials. A teen-age boy was killed in the cross fire and two soldiers wounded.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting Islamic militant groups who have waged a 12-year insurgency in the Indian-ruled portion of Kashmir, demanding the independence or merger with Pakistan of India’s only Muslim-majority state.
Pakistan says its support for the insurgents is only moral and diplomatic and that it does not support terrorist attacks of any kind. At least 60,000 people have died in Kashmir since 1989.
India and Pakistan have gone to war twice over the divided Himalayan province, which both countries claim in its entirety.
With no sign that either India or Pakistan was offering a diplomatic solution in Kashmir, concern mounted about a broader military conflict. Both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, raising the stakes in their long-standing rivalry.
Meanwhile, Pakistan continued to move troops away from the Afghan border, where they are helping U.S. forces in their campaign to flush out al-Qaida and Taliban militants. Islamabad is considering redeploying the soldiers to the Indian frontier.
Pakistan on Saturday denied reports that Pakistani President Gen. Pevez Musharraf had ordered his troops in Kashmir to halt the cross-border infiltration of militants.
“We can’t say first we are doing this thing and now we are now,” said Musharraf’s spokesman, Gen. Rashid Quereshi. “What we are saying simply is that … Musharraf in his Jan. 12 speech made it clear that Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for export of terrorism and extremism.”
He said Indians were firing from across the border on the civilian population. “Pakistan does not initiate fire … we only retaliate when they do it.”