Vowing to continue its biggest offensive in the region in nearly 30 years, India said today that it had forced guerrilla infiltrators in the northern Kashmir heights it controls to move toward the line of control that separates the portions of Kashmir held by India and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Pakistan rejected India's charge that an Indian pilot was murdered after he ejected from his jet fighter and landed in Pakistani Kashmir last week.
India's campaign against hundreds of heavily armed infiltrators focused on positions they had taken in the Kargil, Dras and other areas overlooking a highway that links India's Kashmir Valley with the mountainous Ladakh area of the Himalayas.
"They have been pushed back in all sectors [that] they came in from," Maj. Gen. J.J. Singh said. "The situation as of now is firmly under the control of the security forces."
The airstrikes began Wednesday and Indian officials have said they will continue until ground forces oust the intruders.
Indian news agencies, meanwhile, quoted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as saying he had turned down an offer by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to send a special envoy to New Delhi and Islamabad to defuse tension.
India and Pakistan have gone to war twice over their competing claims to Kashmir.
"Annan rang me up last night to convey his proposal to send a special envoy to India and Pakistan to sort out the matter between the two countries," Vajpayee said, according to the Press Trust of India. "But I firmly told him that if at all an envoy has to be sent, he should go to Pakistan and not India."
Taking strong exception to what India sees as Pakistani efforts to make Kashmir an international issue, Vajpayee said India would never allow third-party mediation to resolve bilateral issues.
Brijesh Mishra, principal secretary and national security adviser to Vajpayee, said it was up to Pakistan to "undo what it has done" in Kashmir. "When other countries ask us to exercise restraint, we tell them: `Please go and tell Pakistan to undo what it has done,' " Mishra said.
India also reacted coolly to a Pakistani proposal to send its foreign minister, Sartaj Aziz, to New Delhi for talks to assuage the confrontation between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
"The matter is under consideration," a spokesman for India's foreign ministry said. "Our thinking is we have to take into account the fact that an armed intrusion has taken place and must be reversed."
CAPTION: Prime Minister Vajpayee said India will not allow bilateral issues to be resolved by third-party mediation.