JAMMU, India – India holds Pakistan "directly responsible" for a deadly attack by suspected Islamic militants on an army base in Kashmir, the Indian defense minister said Wednesday.
The attack claimed 34 lives and was the deadliest in the disputed Himalayan region since October. It came as a senior U.S. official was meeting with top Indian officials to urge them to resume dialogue with Pakistan to end a six-month military standoff.
"Pakistan is directly responsible for this," Defense Minister George Fernandes said after visiting the army base in Kaluchak, south of Kashmir's winter capital, Jammu. "They train young people and send them here to spread terrorism. What else can we expect of them?"
The death toll mounted to 34 on Wednesday as a wounded child of an army soldier died in the military hospital in Jammu, police said.
All shops, businesses and schools were closed for the day in Jammu, in mourning and in response to a call to strike by both the governing and opposition parties.
The attack Tuesday came hours before U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca met with senior official in the Indian capital to urge them to resume dialogue with Pakistan.
"It is just this type of barbarism that the war on terrorism is determined to stop," Rocca said.
In Washington, Defense Department's policy chief Douglas Feith this week told reporters there was a "very large" risk of war between India and Pakistan. He added that the United States is "focused on defusing those tensions."
India and Pakistan have twice fought wars over Kashmir, claimed by both South Asian nuclear rivals.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of training and arming the Islamic militants who have been crossing the border since 1989 to help with the movement for the independence of India's only Muslim-majority state, or its merger with Islamic Pakistan.
Tuesday's shootout was the deadliest attack by suspected militants in an Oct. 1 suicide bombing and shootout at the state's parliament that left 40 people dead.