Published December 28, 2002
NEW DELHI, India – India accused Pakistan of becoming a terrorist hub and said Saturday that Islamabad was doing little to curb attacks by Islamic militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
India Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, citing intelligence reports, said Al Qaeda members had relocated to western Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir after fleeing U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
"The epicenter of terrorism has shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan," Advani said.
He added that cross-border incursions by Islamic guerrillas into Indian-controlled Kashmir had increased in recent weeks.
Advani's comments came as a Pakistan-based guerrilla group vowed Saturday to step up attacks in India's Jammu-Kashmir state.
"We will continue jihad (holy war) in Kashmir with full force," said Syed Salahuddin, head of the Hezb-ul Mujahedeen, the largest of more than a dozen militant outfits battling Indian troops for Kashmir's independence from mostly Hindu India.
Both Pakistani and U.S. officials say more than 400 Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects have been arrested in Pakistan.
The arrests came after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, assured the United States earlier this year that he would end cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. He then shut down militants' camps and banned dozens of Islamic groups.
But Advani said Saturday that Islamabad's measures were "cosmetic."
He said many of the banned terrorist groups had changed their names and continued to be active in Pakistan and Kashmir.
Pakistan said his accusations were without merit.
"Instead of accusing Pakistan, India should come forward to resolve all issues including the core issue of Kashmir to ensure durable peace in the region," Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmad Khan told The Associated Press in Islamabad.
The nuclear-armed, South Asian neighbors have fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir, which both sides claim in its entirety. India has refused further talks with Pakistan.
The 13-year insurgency in India's only Muslim-majority state has left more than 61,000 people dead.
India accuses Pakistan of funding and training the guerrillas. Pakistan insists it offers only moral support — not material aid — to the rebels, whom it calls freedom fighters.
Salahuddin predicted there would be no peace in Kashmir until residents are allowed to decide their own fate. Pakistan has called for a vote by Kashmiris to decide whether a united Kashmir would join India or Pakistan.