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India deploys Sukhoi Jets in Kashmir amid growing tension with Pakistan

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Srinagar, India, Sep 18, IRNA


In a sharp attack on Pakistan, Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram Wednesday accused neighbouring country of supporting terrorist activities and communal violence in India saying that India was caught in a "troubled neighbourhood".

Chidambaram said Pakistan has taken its "hostility" towards India beyond Kashmir.

The statement came on the day when India announced deployment of six of its multi-role Sukhoi SU-30MKI combat jets in disputed Kashmir raising fears of renewed escalation of tension in the volatile region.

New Delhi is struggling to contain a mass pro-independence uprising in its part of Kashmir and the relations between the two hostile nuclear armed neighbours are strained after a four year thaw.

The Russian-designed Sukhoi-30MKI "Flanker" jets were redeployed from Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra to the Avantipur air force base near the Kashmir's capital city of Srinagar, official reports said.

A senior Indian Air Force (IAF) official was quoted by media here as saying that the fighter jets would patrol Indian borders extending up to China and fly across Kargil mountain in Kashmir, where India and Pakistan fought a mini war in 1999.

The media reports from New Delhi have indicated that deploying the Su-30MKIs, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, was an unprecedented move, as the IAF has typically covered Jammu and Kashmir with India's older, Russian-made MiG-29s.

The announcement comes in the wake of recent string of bombings in India and in the midst of a growing crisis between Pakistan and the United States and analysts here view the unprecedented move as politically-motivated military posturing aimed at Pakistan.

A four-year-old peace process between the two countries has virtually stalled, initially because of political turmoil in Pakistan and more recently after peaceful uprising in Kashmir followed by string of bombings in India and at the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Prior to the Kashmir deployment strains in the India-Pakistan peace process was evident, with New Delhi accusing Islamabad of renewed support for cross-border militancy and ceasefire violations along the Line of Control dividing Kashmir.

"Besides reminding Pakistan of India's superior air force capabilities, the Indians are sending Islamabad a message that continued support to militant activities in India will not necessarily go unanswered", these analysts say.

The two countries have fought two of their three wars over the disputed Kashmir region that both claim in full but rule only in part.

But Indian Air Force officials said the deployment of the jets was only to help with pilot training and better border surveillance.

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