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Central & South Asia
Separatist strike cripples Kashmir
Tensions run high in divided region as India and Pakistan prepare for high-level talks.
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2010 18:00 GMT
Martyrs' Day commemorates the killing of 21 Kashmiri Muslims in 1931 [AFP]

A strike called by separatists in Indian-administered Kashmir has forced shops and businesses to close for a third successive day.

Tuesday also witnessed more protests as both separatists and pro-Indian Kashmiris observed "Martyrs' Day" to commemorate the killing of 21 Muslims by guards of the erstwhile king during an uprising in 1931.

"This is the day to reiterate our commitment to the cause of freedom, dignity and independence," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a senior separatist leader, said.

Kashmir has been rocked by anti-Indian protests and strikes since nearly a month. At least 15 people have died mostly in shootings blamed on police and paramilitary soldiers.

On Tuesday, security forces erected more checkpoints and laid razor wire on roads in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Jammu and Kashmir state, in an attempt to thwart separatist rallies.

India-Pakistan talks

With tensions running high in Kashmir, there is increased interest in high-level talks that India and Pakistan are to have on Thursday.

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SM Krishna, the Indian foreign minister, is scheduled to travel to Islamabad for talks with Shah Mehmood Qureshi, his Pakistani couterpart.

Raja Farooq Haider, the leader of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said on Tuesday that the talks "can be meaningful only if Kashmiris are made part of it".

Analysts say the dispute over Kashmir - a territory claimed in entirety by both India and Pakistan - would figure high on the agenda.

Thursday's meeting would be the highest-level contact between the two countries since New Delhi broke off normalisation talks with Islamabad over the attack on its financial capital, Mumbai, in November 2008.

India blames Pakistan-based armed groups for the attack and has been pressing the Pakistani government to crack down on them before negotiations could restart.

Source:
Agencies
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