SRINAGAR - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh faced protests as he made a rare visit to Occupied Kashmir on Tuesday, a day after eight soldiers were killed in the deadliest attack in the region for five years.
Singh said India was united in the fight against terrorism after landing in Kishtwar as part of the two-day trip, his first to the region for three years.
“India is firmly united against terrorism. (We) Won’t let them succeed in their nefarious designs,” the premier told Indian media in Kishtwar, where he laid a foundation stone for a hydro-power plant.
Singh stressed in a speech that violence “had shown a sharp decline and was the lowest in last two decades”, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
The premier also said more than half of the projects undertaken as part of a $4 billion economic reconstruction package for the region have been completed.
It is the first time the premier has visited the Indian-controlled Himalayan territory - which has been the scene of two wars with Pakistan - since June 2010 and comes less than a year before India goes to the polls.
Police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in strength across the region for the visit, including in the main city of Srinagar where the premier will give a speech later Tuesday.
Shops and other businesses, along with schools, banks and offices were closed throughout the city after the three main Mujahideen groups called a strike to protest Singh’s visit. Indian forces were enforcing curfew-like restrictions in the volatile and congested old town in Srinagar.
“We are confined to our homes whenever a politician from Delhi visits our Kashmir,” a resident of the area said by phone, adding that he was not able to leave his neighbourhood for work.
Despite the high security, a group of fighters staged an attack on Monday on a troop convoy on the outskirts of Srinagar, killing eight soldiers and wounding 13 others. Singh, who is being accompanied by Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Congress party, visited the wounded soldiers at an army base hospital.
Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest on Indian security forces since July 2008 when a landmine killed nine soldiers on a bus on the outskirts of Srinagar.