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Chidambaram hints at Pakistan role in Kashmir unrest

Reuters  New Delhi, August 06, 2010
First Published: 19:36 IST(6/8/2010) | Last Updated: 20:52 IST(6/8/2010)

Home Minister P Chidambaram hinted on Friday that Pakistan could be behind weeks of violent anti-India protests in the disputed Kashmir region, a move that could hurt the nuclear-armed rivals attempts to improve ties.

This is the first time New Delhi has linked Pakistan to the violence in Kashmir that has killed nearly 50 people since June. Earlier India had said Pakistan-based militants were inciting trouble in Kashmir, a region divided between India and Pakistan and which both claim in full.

"Pakistan appears to have altered its strategy in influencing events in Jammu and Kashmir," Chidambaram told the parliament during a debate on the protests, among the biggest since a separatist revolt against Indian rule broke out in 1989.

"It is possible that they believe that relying upon civilian unrest will pay them better dividends. But I am confident if we are able to win the hearts and minds of the people ... those designs can be foiled."

The comments could be seen by Islamabad as a provocation, damaging prospects for improving ties that plummetted after the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and derailed a sluggish four-year-old peace process with Pakistan.

The two sides' last held peace talks in July and those ended in acrimony over the attacks.

Divided Kashmir remains at the heart of the dispute between India and Pakistan, with both sides claiming the Himalayan region in full. They have fought two of their three wars over it.

India accuses Pakistan of fuelling unrest in Kashmir, but Islamabad says it only lends moral support to what it calls Kashmir's independence movement which has killed tens of thousands of people.

In June, India blamed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants for the Mumbai attacks. LeT was founded in 1990 to fight Indian rule in Kashmir and is based in Pakistan's Punjab province.

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