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India Deploys More Troops To Kashmir As Khan Calls For Trump Mediation


A member of India's security forces stands guard as police search a van on the Jammu-Srinagar highway at Nagrota on August 2.

India has deployed more troops and ordered thousands of visitors out of Indian-controlled Kashmir, while Pakistan's leader has called on U.S. President Donald Trump to mediate the long-standing dispute over the Himalayan region.

On August 5, phone and Internet services were suspended in Indian-controlled Kashmir and state leaders placed under house arrest.

The clampdown began in the early hours of August 5, when Indian authorities said they were slapping restrictions on public movement and closing all schools in Srinagar, the region's main city.

Pakistani police on August 4 said Indian shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) that separates Kashmir between the nuclear rivals wounded a woman, as ongoing skirmishes spread fear in border villages.

A day earlier, Pakistan accused India of killing two civilians and wounding 11 through the use of illegal cluster bombs, an allegation India denied.

In recent days, India has deployed at least 10,000 troops to Kashmir. Media reports have said a further 25,000 have been ordered to the region.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, both of which claim the territory in its entirety and have fought two wars over it since their independence from British rule in 1947.

India's cabinet was meeting at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's residence on August 5 to discuss the situation, and Indian media said the government was likely to make a statement in parliament on the situation in Kashmir later in the day.

Tensions have escalated in the mountainous region since a vehicle laden with explosives rammed into an Indian police convoy on February 14, killing 40 paramilitary policemen, and leading to aerial clashes between the two nations.

Thousands of Indian students and visitors were fleeing the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir on August 3 after the local government issued a security alert related to possible militant attacks in the disputed territory.

Indian security officials on August 2 said they had found evidence of attacks planned by Pakistani military-backed militants on a major Hindu pilgrimage in Kashmir.

Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, condemned the latest shelling by India, warning on Twitter that the situation had the potential to "blow up into a regional crisis." He said that "the only road to peace and security in South Asia runs through a peaceful and just settlement of Kashmir."

Khan said the time was right to take Trump up on his offer to mediate the dispute over Kashmir.

"President Trump offered to mediate on Kashmir. This is the time to do so as situation deteriorates there and along the LoC with new aggressive actions being taken by Indian occupation forces," Khan said on Twitter.

Trump last month told reporters that India's Modi had asked him if he would like to be a mediator on Kashmir.

However, New Delhi later denied Modi ever asked for mediation, and India has long rejected any suggestion of third-party involvement in resolving the Kashmir issue.

India's Foreign Ministry and the White House did not immediately comment on Khan's remarks.

Indian authorities in Kashmir imposed an indefinite security lockdown in the region on August 4 and erected steel barricades and razor wire on roads and intersections to cut off neighborhoods in Srinagar and other towns in Kashmir Valley.

"As per the order, there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed," a government statement said, adding that public meetings and rallies are being banned.

Internet service and most mobile-phone networks were suspended.

Pakistani officials reported that frontier residents on the Pakistan side are moving away to safer areas or have begun construction of new bunkers or have fortified existing ones near their homes.

But the Indian government's evacuation order of tourists and Hindu pilgrims and a buildup of troops in its part of the region has led to increased tensions.

Those actions raised fears in the region that New Delhi is preparing to scrap a provision in the Indian Constitution provision that bans Indians from outside Kashmir from buying land in the Muslim-majority territory.

Khan and Pakistani political and military leaders met on August 4 and expressed concerns over what Islamabad called "India's destabilizing efforts" in the region.

Modi is scheduled to chair an Indian national security meeting on August 5.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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