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Pakistan: No al Qaeda in Kashmir

Indian soldiers remain on a high state of alert along the Kashmir Line of Control
Indian soldiers remain on a high state of alert along the Kashmir Line of Control  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan has rejected suggestions by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and India that there could be al Qaeda terrorists operating in the disputed region of Kashmir.

"It's absolutely nonsense," government spokesman General Rashid Qureshi said.

"The Indian allegation aims to undermine the indigenous movement inside Indian-occupied Kashmir," he said. "There is no such information or evidence at all to support the allegation."

He was speaking as Rumsfeld continued discussions with officials in Pakistan on the second stage of his visit designed to ease tensions with neighboring nuclear power India.

On Wednesday, during a visit to New Delhi, Rumsfeld said there were "indications" that al Qaeda terrorists are operating in Kashmir near the Line of Control, the division between Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has arrived in Islamabad, satisfied that India has taken 'constructive' steps to improve relations with Pakistan. CNN's Barbara Starr reports.

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He said had no "hard evidence of precisely how many or who or where" the suspected al Qaeda operatives were. But, he added, "needless to say there are a lot of people in the world that want to stop al Qaeda from planning or executing an attack."

The defense secretary was speaking after talks with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. (Full story.)

India has alleged that members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network have regrouped in Kashmir after being forced out of Afghanistan during the U.S.-led campaign there following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Shared intelligence

Rumsfeld later flew from New Delhi to Islamabad where he will meet Thursday with senior Pakistani officials, including President Pervez Musharraf.

According to sources traveling with him, the United States is considering the use of American technology to help India and Pakistan monitor their Line of Control in Kashmir.

Meanwhile Indian diplomatic sources have told CNN that the American and Indian delegations "have reached an agreement in principle for sharing and evaluating intelligence inputs in a more organized way" across the Line of Control.

The sources said there had been information sharing in the past, but it had not been completely organized.


India has blamed a series of militant attacks, including a dramatic raid on the Indian parliament in New Delhi last December, on Kashmiri separatist groups it says operate from Pakistani-controlled territory with backing from Islamabad.

Pakistan has rejected the charges, saying it only gives moral support to groups fighting what it calls a "liberation struggle" for the Kashmiri people.

The row has led to a dramatic increase in tensions between the two nuclear powers, between them deploying around a million troops along their shared border and the Line of Control. (Maps and military.)

Amid such a tense stand-off diplomats have expressed fears that another militant attack could spark a catastrophic war.

India has withdrawn a fleet of five naval ships from the Arabian Sea near Pakistan
India has withdrawn a fleet of five naval ships from the Arabian Sea near Pakistan  

Rumsfeld's talks in New Delhi, which included India's national security adviser, focused on monitoring the situation along the Line of Control and on using ground-based sensors developed by the United States to monitor and respond to infiltration across the line.

The United States did not offer specific proposals, but the discussions broached the idea of a meeting among U.S., British, Indian and Pakistani officials on monitoring strategies.

Any border monitoring system involving U.S.-made technology would be run by India and Pakistan, U.S. officials said.


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