WANPOH, India – India's prime minister on Wednesday called on neighboring Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups operating from its soil, as he inaugurated a train service to forge stronger ties between Indian-controlled Kashmir and the rest of the country.
"I hope that the government of Pakistan will take their ongoing actions against terrorist groups to their logical conclusion," Manmohan Singh told a public rally at Wanpoh, a town about 35 miles south of Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's main city.
"It is a misplaced idea that one can reach a compromise with ... terrorists," he added.
India put on hold its 5-year-old peace process with Pakistan soon after last November's attacks in Mumbai, which India blamed on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
New Delhi also accuses Pakistan of arming and training the Islamist militant groups who have fought Indian forces in Indian Kashmir since 1989, seeking independence for the Muslim-majority state or its merger with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have died in the violence.
Islamabad denies the accusation. Both countries claim the divided Kashmir in its entirety.
The tensions in Kashmir led to tight security for Singh's visit. Thousands of armed paramilitary troops and police in flak jackets were spread out across the state. Troops closed off roads with razor wire and installed jammers to block mobile phone signals in areas he was supposed to visit.
Shops, businesses and schools were shut across most of the state in response to a strike called by a hard-line separatist leader to protest Singh's visit.
"The shutdown conveys to the Indian prime minister that people reject the dialogue offer unless India withdraws its troops, releases prisoners, repeals impunity laws and accepts Kashmir as an international dispute," the separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani told The Associated Press.
In Srinagar, dozens of Kashmiri Muslims burned the prime minister's effigy and chanted, "We want freedom ... Indian forces leave Kashmir!" Police dispersed them with armored vehicles.
Singh reiterated his government's stance that it will hold talks with any political group that does not advocate violence in the troubled Himalayan region.
The Indian government is "willing to talk to anyone who has any meaningful ideas for promoting peace and development in Kashmir," Singh said.
Last year, Singh opened one section of the train line that connects the southern part of the Kashmir valley to the north. On Wednesday, he inaugurated a new, 11-mile segment. The daily service will run under tight paramilitary and police patrols.
The train line eventually will connect to the rest of India, though there is no timeline.