A possible plot to assassinate the Indian prime minister has been thwarted in the troubled region of Kashmir. Indian forces shot dead two separatist militants this morning, after they were spotted heading into a derelict building overlooking a cricket ground in the main city, Srinagar, just hours before Manmohan Singh was due to appear there. Two soldiers and a civilian were also injured in the shoot-out.
Kashmir has been a source of conflict between India and Pakistan since 1947, with both countries seeking to control the region. This is Singh’s first visit to Kashmir, and follows yesterday’s pledge to begin a phased withdrawal of 20,000 soldiers from the area. The region’s First Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed described the withdrawal as a “big step”.
However, separatist leaders are hoping for more and are urging Singh to come up with concrete initiatives for resolving the situation. India is believed to have up to 350,000 troops in Kashmir. A thousand soldiers began heading home this morning. Meanwhile Pakistan has recently put forward proposals for a full troop withdrawal and a power-sharing deal with India. However, none of these moves will satisfy those Kashmiris who say they will settle for nothing less than independence.