British Official Meets Indian Leaders on Kashmir Tensions

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Friday there is less tension between nuclear armed India and Pakistan since the height of war fears in the spring, but said more work was needed to open a dialogue.

He said Pakistan had reduced the infiltration of militants into India's portion of the disputed province of Kashmir and called on Pakistan to bring a "permanent" stop to the border crossings.

As Straw met with Indian leaders, the army said it killed five suspected Islamic militants who entered India-controlled Kashmir from Pakistani territory.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said in early June that there was no activity on the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed nations. New Delhi demands a stop to cross-border incursions as a condition for resuming dialogue with archrival Pakistan.

"We are glad to note that progress has been made but further steps need to be taken for us to speak about an active dialogue," said Straw, who travels on Saturday to Pakistan. "A permanent end to infiltration is obviously very important."

"There has been a reduction of tension although the situation remains difficult," Straw told a news conference.

Straw arrived in the Indian capital Thursday night on his second visit to the region since May to encourage steps toward talks over Kashmir.

Five insurgents infiltrated India Friday in the Nowgam sector, 70 miles north of Srinagar in Jammu-Kashmir state, said Lt. Col. Mukhtiar Singh, an army spokesman. HE said soldiers intercepted them and killed all five.

The report could not be independently confirmed. Kashmiri villagers and human rights groups accuse Indian security forces of sometimes killing civilians and claiming they were infiltrating militants.

"We would encourage India to improve its human rights record, including the investigation of abuses," Straw said at the news conference. He did not refer specifically to two accusations this month that the army killed civilians and claimed they were militant infiltrators.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is also to visit Islamabad and New Delhi this month.

India and Pakistan came close to war this year after attacks on the state legislature in Indian-held Kashmir, the Indian Parliament and an army camp. India blamed the attacks on Pakistan-based Islamic militants and Pakistan's spy agency. Pakistan and the guerrilla groups denied the charge.

Intense diplomatic pressure helped to pull both sides back from the brink of war, but nearly 1 million Indian and Pakistani soldiers remain massed on the frontier.

Islamic insurgents have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. The nations have fought three wars, two over control of Kashmir, since 1947.