Indian police investigate shooting in Kashmir

AP News
Posted: Sep 28, 2013 8:41 AM
Indian police investigate shooting in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Police were investigating a shooting near a military convoy in the main city of India-held Kashmir on Saturday, two days after twin attacks by suspected militants left 13 people dead and put the region on high alert.

No casualties were reported in Saturday's incident, which came a day before highly anticipated talks between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers. Kashmiris expressed mixed feelings about their expectations for the meeting between the leaders of the rival nations, which each control a portion of the disputed Himalayan territory.

It was not immediately clear whether the shots fired Saturday in Srinagar came from two men riding a motorcycle past the military convoy, or if patrolling street soldiers had opened fire first on the motorcycle, suspecting the men were militants.

Police Director General Ashok Prasad said authorities had cordoned off the area and were investigating.

Anti-India rebels in Kashmir have been fighting since 1989 for independence or a merger with neighboring Pakistan, though most resistance is now shown through street protests.

Security forces, however, have been on high alert since Thursday, when suspected militants stormed an Indian police station and an army camp in Kashmir's Jammu region, sparking a fierce gunbattle that left eight troops, two civilians and three alleged attackers dead.

India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars over Kashmir, both claim the territory in its entirety while governing parts of it. Relations have been particularly tense since the 2008 Mumbai attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants killed 164 people in India's commercial hub.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, plan to meet Sunday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

Sharif has called the meeting a chance for a "new beginning," while Singh has downplayed expectations and demanded that Pakistan crack down on militants staging attacks in India.

The top elected official of Indian Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, expressed hope that the talks would prove fruitful.

"Our eyes are presently on the summit room in New York," Abdullah said Saturday. "Let India and Pakistan be good friends besides neighbors."

Separatists expressed doubt that the talks would yield progress over Kashmir. Syed Ali Geelani, a top separatist leader now under house arrest in Srinagar, called the meeting a "mere diplomatic formality."

"India needs to shun its rigidity, and Pakistan has to ... talk straight about the core issue of Kashmir," Geelani said in a statement.

Residents in Srinagar were apprehensive about the talks, with many wary of hoping for resolution after decades of conflict and mistrust of New Delhi and Islamabad.

"India and Pakistan have conducted several rounds of talks over Kashmir," Srinagar shopkeeper Abdul Rashid said. "But for us, it's like talking for the sake of talking, as there has been almost no change in the ground realities."

Schoolteacher Hilal Ahmed said the two countries have been "pursuing their own agendas, undermining the Kashmiri aspirations," while "Kashmiris in the middle suffer."