India in warplane strike as talks fail

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DESPITE PROPOSED peace talks, Indian warplanes launched strikes for the fourth day running yesterday against intruders dug in on mountainsides near Kargil, on the Indian side of Kashmir's de facto border, the "line of Control" (LoC).

India's military spokesman, Major-General J J Singh, said Pakistan was moving artillery and infantry along the LoC, and deploying air defence radar and missile units in Skardu, close to the border. "These are probably precautionary defensive measures, but we are not taking chances," he said. He confirmed reports of infiltration into Indian territory at other border points.

Maj-Gen Singh said 300 infiltrators had been killed and 150 wounded since fighting started on 8 May, and 125 of the casualties were Pakistani army regulars. In the same period, 29 Indians were killed, 128 wounded and 12 are missing.

Friday's phone conversation between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers raised hopes that the conflict, the worst between the two since 1971, could be winding down. During the 20-minute discussion, the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, suggested his Foreign Minister, Surtaj Aziz, might go to Delhi for talks. An Indian government spokesman said that was "under consideration".

But the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee said at an all-party meeting in Delhi yesterday that he had told Mr Sharif that Delhi "cannot stop" its military action against the "Pakistani-backed intruders", and the Line of Control stays.

Pakistan calls the dispute an "uprising" by discontented Kashmiri Muslims. Maj-Gen Singh said Pakistan army documents and an identity card had been found on Abdul Sayub, a soldier of Pakistan's Fourth Northern Light Infantry, killed near Kargil. Fifteen to 20 Pakistan army soldiers were being killed in the fighting every day, and their bodies returned to the Pakistani authorities, he said.