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South Asia: Blair Tries To Defuse Kashmir Tension

New Delhi, 7 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair is scheduled to travel to Islamabad today as he continues his efforts to defuse tensions between rivals Pakistan and India over Kashmir. Yesterday, Blair held talks in New Delhi with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Afterwards, Blair said India was willing to talk with Pakistan if it rejected terrorism.

India, accusing Pakistan of sponsoring attacks by Islamic militants in the disputed region of Kashmir, and Israel, battling a 15-month Palestinian uprising against occupation, are both demanding that their adversaries renounce "terrorism" before entering peace talks.

Meanwhile, the Indian army yesterday announced that it had shot down an unmanned Pakistani spy plane, which had allegedly entered Indian airspace. Pakistan denied one of its spy planes had been shot down. Pakistani army spokesman Brigadier Saulat Raza said it was in fact an Indian plane that had come down.

Local witnesses said the plane had flown eight kilometers into Indian airspace, prompting a heavy exchange of artillery fire between Indian and Pakistani troops.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is also in South Asia, where he begins a three-day visit to India today focused on the increasingly common security worries of two countries which only established formal relations 10 years ago.