KARGIL: Narendra Modi has accused Pakistan of waging a proxy war in Kashmir as he became the first Indian prime minister to visit Kargil since more than 1,000 died in fighting there 15 years ago.
Modi landed in the remote Himalayan town yesterday, a day after India and its rival Pakistan traded accusations of ceasefire violations on their border in Kashmir.
He is the first Indian leader to visit the highly sensitive area since a 1999 Pakistani army incursion triggered a conflict between the two countries.
Since then, India has maintained a heavy military presence in Muslim-majority Kargil in the mountainous Kashmiri region of Ladakh.
But a reporter at the scene said there were few soldiers on the streets of Kargil yesterday.
“Today when I came, I heard the cheerful claps of the people,” Modi told the 5,000-strong crowd in the town, which was festooned with flags from his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
“I had also come at a time when the place was echoing with the noise of bombs and bullets,” he said, recalling an earlier visit he made to Kargil before becoming prime minister.
Abdul Hanie said locals had high hopes for the new prime minister after years of neglect from the national government.
“He really seems like talking about the real things, like an airport and the tunnel to Kashmir valley,” said the 30-year-old resident of Kargil, which is often cut off in winter.
“At least he came here as the first step. I am hopeful things will change for us, particularly during winters,” added Zainab Khatoon, who attended the event with her infant son.
Speaking earlier to soldiers in Leh, capital of the Ladakh region, Modi condemned what he called a “proxy war by Pakistan“.
He said troops were “suffering more casualties from terrorism than from war“, according to the government’s Press Information Bureau website.
New Delhi has long accused Islamabad of using Pakistan-based militant groups such as the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba against its forces in Kashmir – a claim that Islamabad denies.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim the region in full but administer separate partial areas. The neighbours have fought two of their three wars over its control. — AFP