September 17, 2008 / 11:35 AM / 9 years ago

India deploys fighter jets in troubled Kashmir

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has deployed its top fighter jets in Kashmir, ostensibly for better border management, but analysts said the move was aimed at Pakistan after relations between the nuclear-armed rivals soured in recent months.

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

India blamed Pakistan for the Kabul attack in July -- a charge Islamabad denied -- saying it had put the peace process in “distress”.

Under these circumstances, analysts say, the deployment of six Russian-made Sukhoi-30 jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads in the troubled Kashmir region was military posturing aimed at Pakistan.

“This forward movement is part of a deterrence for Pakistan, and to tell them if they fish in troubled waters in Kashmir, India would be ready,” Major-General Ashok Mehta, a defence analyst, told Reuters.

India accuses Pakistan of aiding a violent separatist revolt in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which in recent weeks has seen huge anti-India protests.

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.

“At the moment we cannot elaborate further on the deployment,” said Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani, spokesman of the Indian Air Force. “The fighter jets will help our pilots in Kashmir. But we are not commenting further on the reasons.”

The jets have been deployed at an airbase in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir.

India has 60 Sukhoi fighters, capable of flying in poor weather conditions with extensive combat capabilities.

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