India pulled about 3,000 troops out of Kashmir Saturday in a planned withdrawal of army units from the disputed region, Indian officials said. The soldiers left their bases in convoys of trucks, jeeps and buses.
The troops were not withdrawn from the Line of Control that divides Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir, but from positions to the rear, according to local news accounts. They "were involved in counterterrorism operations, patrolling and sanitation and surveillance of the area," Brig. D.K. Chowdhary told reporters.
Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, in a move aimed at giving momentum to the sluggish India-Pakistan peace process, announced that his government would withdraw some troops from Kashmir.
He cited a sharp drop in separatist guerrilla attacks in the Himalayan territory as the reason for the reduction.
India has at least 400,000 soldiers in Kashmir. It has not said how many it plans to withdraw, but some army officers have put the number at more than 20,000.
In the first withdrawal since Singh's announcement, hundreds of soldiers pulled out of the Muslim separatist rebel stronghold of Anantnag in southern Kashmir on Wednesday.
But Singh's reiteration that the region was an integral part of India and that there could be no redrawing of borders sparked irritation in Islamabad, where Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, said the "vibes" from New Delhi were not encouraging.