Kashmir is split between rivals India and Pakistan. Demonstrators on the Pakistan-controlled side burnt an effigy of Modi and India's tricolour flag on Friday to protest against the Prime Minister's visit.

Schools and shops were shut and the busy roads were free of traffic in Srinagar, when Modi arrived to meet Army Commanders in one of the most world's most militarized regions.

"It is our earnest wish that Modi and the newly elected NDA government understand the ardent political message we seek to convey through this act," said separatist leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq.

Police erected barricades to stop and search vehicles entering Srinagar ahead of Modi's arrival and soldiers flanked main roads throughout the Himalayan region that has been racked by insurgency for decades.

Modi has long been associated with a Hindu nationalist organisation that wants to end the semi-autonomous status that Muslim-majority Kashmir nominally enjoys. His government has promised to renew the debate on the sensitive issue.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have been quarrelling over the region they both claim in full since freedom from British colonial rule in 1947.

Hundreds of thousands of troops are stationed along either side of the border, making it a dangerous flashpoint despite a ceasefire that has reduced - but not ended - cross-border firing in recent years.

Many Kashmiris want independence from both India and Pakistan, and separatist politicians and armed militants alike have often fought for that goal or for closer ties with Pakistan.

"We have repeatedly expressed our hope that the Kashmir issue is addressed in its proper perspective as a political and human issue," said Farooq, who heads a coalition of separatists and is seen as close to Pakistan.

On Wednesday night, sporadic fighting broke out in Poonch district along the de facto border, with the Indian army saying they had foiled an infiltration attempt by militants. Militants regularly cross into Kashmir from the Pakistan side of the border to launch attacks.

" Modi will take with him the gift of bodies of Indian soldiers" from Poonch, said Maulana Abdul Aziz Alvi, a leader in Pakistani Kashmir of the Jamaat ud Dawa, a group under US and UN sanctions.

Lieutenant-General KH Singh, Commander of the White Knight Corps (16 Corps) in India, said that ceasefire violations and infiltration bids were common before the high-profile visits to the state.


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