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Two million security personnels deployed for polls

delhi Updated: Apr 02, 2009 19:44 IST

AFP
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India has tightened security and is ready to deal with any militant attacks during campaigning for general elections set to start in mid-April, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.

"There is no need for panic and alarm as the country has been put on a high level of security to ensure peaceful polls," Home Minister P Chidambaram told a news conference in New Delhi.

At the same time, he said the overall security situation in South Asia had deteriorated "so we have to be on guard."

India has assigned more than two million security personnel and police officers for the elections which begin April 16 and end May 13.

Many candidates contesting the world's biggest exercise in democracy have demanded tighter security amid warnings about possible attacks by Islamic militants from Pakistan during the five-phased polls. However, "much of that is not true," Chidambaram said, referring to the warnings.

"There were attempted infiltrations in the last three weeks" by Pakistan-based rebels into Indian-held Kashmir, he said.
"But our security agencies have thwarted every such attempt from across the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir," Chidambaram said.

The line of control refers to the heavily militarised frontier dividing the disputed Himalayan region, which is held in part by nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India but claimed in full by both.

A deadly insurgency has been under way against New Delhi's rule in Indian Kashmir for nearly two decades.

"Our level of preparedness is high and every piece of intelligence input is shared on a real-time basis and acted upon when there are genuine threats," the minister added.

Chidambaram said he had written to political leaders urging them not to take "unnecessary risks" at public rallies while campaigning for the polls to choose members to sit in parliament's 543-seat lower house.