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India to pull 10,000 troops from Kashmir

India plans to withdraw 10,000 paramilitary troops from Kashmir in 2011 and renew efforts to hold talks

AFP , Sunday 13 Feb 2011
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India plans to withdraw 10,000 paramilitary troops from Kashmir in 2011 and renew efforts to hold talks in the rebellion-hit Himalayan region, a top government official said Sunday.

A separatist insurgency has raged in Indian Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state, for 20 years and at least 114 people died in street protests last summer in pitched battles with security forces.

"I think this year we can easily take out 10 battalions (10,000 personnel), if not more," Indian Home Secretary Gopal Pillai told the Press Trust of India news agency. "Irrespective of the situation, I can take out 10 battalions and it would not have any impact."

There are currently 70,000 paramilitary troops in Indian Kashmir plus 100,000-150,000 army soldiers.

Many state politicians in Kashmir believe their huge presence has fuelled recent deadly violence.

"There are more than adequate forces in Kashmir and it can do with less central forces," Pillai, the home ministry's top civil servant, said. "You have to start talking to other people and get fresh ideas so I think we have to reach out to the people of Kashmir."

Security forces opening fire at separatist demonstrations have triggered a cycle of violence in Kashmir over recent summers, and the government in New Delhi is keen to calm tensions in the year ahead.

Discontent has simmered since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, when a Hindu ruler took his Muslim subjects into India rather than the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

Today, after two wars over the area, Kashmir is administered in part by India and Pakistan, but claimed in full by both. Polls appear to indicate that most in Indian Kashmir favour independence.

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