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Tensions Between India And Pakistan Are High After Bombing In Kashmir

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The latest on Kashmir, that's the disputed region in the Himalayas split between Indian and Pakistani control. This past week saw a suicide car bomb that killed some 40 Indian troops, a car bomb for which a Pakistan-based militant group has claimed responsibility. Now, this is the deadliest such attack in three decades. Tensions between nuclear-armed India and nuclear-armed Pakistan have seldom been higher.

NPR's Lauren Frayer was just in Kashmir. She's now back at her base in Mumbai, and she joins us now. Hey, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Start with the latest 'cause I guess there's been more violence today.

FRAYER: There has. I mean, Kashmir has had this decades-long insurgency, but it normally does quiet down in winter because of this heavy snow. I was there just a week ago. It was pretty quiet. Now that scene is bombings and gun battles. Today, Indian police say they killed three militants, including a top figure in that Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Muhammad (ph). Five Indian troops also were killed today.

Meanwhile, funerals are going on across India for those troops killed in last week's bombing. Some of those funerals have morphed into these sort of nationalist rallies. Here's what it sounded like just a few moments ago outside my home in Mumbai.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

KELLY: Tell me what they're saying, what they're chanting there.

FRAYER: So that was a Hindu procession that erupted into chants of Mother India and expressions of sympathy for "martyred" - that's a quote - soldiers. Across the country, there have been anti-Pakistan rallies. And there have been reports of harassment against Kashmiris across India since this bombing. Police have set up a hotline. The government's asking states to ensure Kashmiris' safety.

KELLY: And I mentioned that tensions between India and Pakistan are very high as a result of this. I mean, just give us a sense of where that relationship stands.

FRAYER: Yeah, it's definitely shaky. The - India and Pakistan have fought three wars already over Kashmir. They both, as you mentioned, have nuclear weapons. India has recalled its envoy to Pakistan, gave a stern warning to the Pakistani ambassador here in India. India says it doesn't believe Pakistan when that country says it doesn't support these militant groups that operate from its territory.

But so far, the row is largely diplomatic. India is trying to isolate Pakistan economically. It has rescinded Pakistan's trade partner status. After the last major attack like this, India claimed to have conducted a cross-border strike into Pakistan. Now, Prime Minister Modi says all military options are on the table right now.

KELLY: And in the seconds we have left, Lauren, I suppose this all plays very much into domestic politics in India, where you have national elections coming up.

FRAYER: Absolutely. Modi is running for a second term as prime minister. His re-election was once seen as a sure thing. In recent weeks, there have been disappointing unemployment figures. Now this violence allows him, a Hindu nationalist, to campaign on national security from now on.

KELLY: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer in Mumbai, India. Thank you, Lauren.

FRAYER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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