Kashmiris see fence as friendship barrier

  • AseanPlus News
  • Sunday, 07 Dec 2003

SRINAGAR: Happy that the guns have fallen silent between India and Pakistan, residents of villages in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir say they don't want a barbed-wire fence erected along the ceasefire line between the two hostile neighbours. 

The Indian army is building a fence along the Line of Control – a 1972 ceasefire line that divides the Kashmir region between archrivals India and Pakistan – to block infiltration of separatist rebels from Pakistan. 

“The purpose is to block the movement of militants into India. Fences will greatly impede their success to move into the hinterland,'' said Indian army Brig Rajinder Singh, supervising the fencing work at a border post 175km north-west of Srinagar, the summer capital of India's northern Jammu-Kashmir state. 

India accuses Pakistan of training and funding thousands of Islamic separatist militants and helping them cross the ceasefire line into India's portion of Kashmir, where they launch terror attacks. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only provides diplomatic and moral support. 

More than 65,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the 14-year conflict. 

Despite the approach of winter and the rough mountain terrain, work on the fence has accelerated since the ceasefire between Indian and Pakistani soldiers took effect last month, said Brig Rajinder. 

“We have been able to work more vigorously after the ceasefire, which has been holding fine without any violation,'' he said. 

Before the ceasefire, cross-border skirmishes between the two armies were a daily routine. 

The fence along the 745km Line of Control is expected to be finished by mid-2004. Nearly a fourth has been completed, said Brig Rajinder. 

Happy that the intermittent firing by Indian and Pakistani soldiers has ended and normal life has returned to their little hamlet, residents of Dringle complain that the fence would hamper their movement and farming. 

Fencing the Line of Control doesn't make sense after the talk about friendship and the ceasefire by India and Pakistan just last month, said villager Alamdin.  

“If we want to be friends, why should a fence be erected?'' he asked. “It is absurd to begin one's friendship with mistrust.'' –AP  

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