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Background: India-Pakistan Dispute

May 27, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


MARGARET WARNER: Now, the confrontation between India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s President today tried to defuse the tense situation, which centers on the disputed territory of Kashmir. The two countries have massed a million soldiers along their common border there since last December, when Kashmiri militants attacked the Indian parliament.

Tensions have risen further over the last ten days. Islamic militants attacked an Indian army camp in Kashmir, and a Kashmiri leader was murdered, as we hear in these reports from Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Abdul Gani Lone was about to address the crowd from the platform when two men shot him. Chaos and panic ensued. An eyewitness shouts, “The masked men came and started firing.” In fact, it was two men dressed in police uniforms who killed Mr. Lone. Another threw a grenade, which failed to explode. The killing is sure to raise tension in the region even higher. (Women screaming) Desperate relatives. Lone’s body was laid out at his house. He was a moderate separatist who only yesterday suggested he’d be willing to talk to India. But he’d been threatened by both Hindu nationalists and Islamic militants.

Since 1998, when India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, the Kashmir crisis has become the most potentially dangerous in the world. Estimates of how many warheads each side possesses vary. The Americans say Pakistan has about 25, but others put it as high as 150; while India is believed to have between 60 and 250. Both countries could deliver these from aircraft or possibly medium-range missiles.

KRISHNAN GURU MURTHY: Tens of thousands of Kashmiris went to the funeral today of Abdul Gani Lone. These people want independence from India, and Lone was a moderate politician who wanted to negotiate. There’s still no indication of whether he was assassinated yesterday by hardliners on his own side, or by Indian nationalists.

At the same time, the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was in Kashmir to rally his troops along the disputed border with Pakistan. Repeating his accusations that Pakistan is helping Kashmiri militant separatists wage war and terror on India, the rhetoric is now more intense than at any time in the last decade.

ATAL BIHARI VAJPAYEE, Prime Minister, India (Translated): It’s time for a decisive battle. My coming here is a signal. Whether Pakistan understands that signal or not, whether the world keeps a record of this or not, our history will be witness to this, and we will write a new chapter of our victory.

KRISHNAN GURU MURTHY: While Pakistani troops remain on high alert at the border, India refuses to talk to Pakistan. Despite both sides having nuclear deterrents, there is not hotline from Delhi to Islamabad.

IAN WILLIAMS: Pakistan and India do routinely test their missiles, but with the two sides seemingly on the brink of war, these are hardly routine times. Islamabad’s missile arsenal is thought capable of carrying nuclear warheads. India was informed about this weekend’s tests, which Islamabad says are routine, technical and not linked to the border tension. India, which tested its own missiles in January, isn’t buying that.

NIRUPAMA RAO, Indian Foreign Ministry: The government of India is not particularly impressed by these missile antics clearly targeted at the domestic audience in Pakistan.

NISAR MEMON, Information Minister, Pakistan: It has absolutely nothing to do with the present situation, and as you know, Pakistan has always wanted peace. We continue to work for peace, and in this regard, we believe that this could be our readiness for deterrence. That’s all it is.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Pakistani troops still poised for action, and General Musharaff said nothing today to suggest he’ll be pulling them back. He repeated the message that militants wouldn’t be allowed to cross into Indian-controlled Kashmir, but the Indians know many are inside already, and he was blunt in his defense of the Kashmiri cause.

PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, Pakistan (Translated): I also want to tell the world and give the assurance that no infiltration is taking place across the line of control. But I want to make one thing quite clear: A liberation movement is going on in occupied Kashmir, and Pakistan cannot be held responsible for any action against Indian tyranny and repression.

LINDSEY HILSUM: But words of comfort in English for international consumption.

PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Pakistan does not want war. Pakistan will not be the one to initiate war. We want peace in the region.

LINDSEY HILSUM: And the rather stronger words in Urdu to the domestic audience.

PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF (Translated): The entire nation is with the armed forces and we’ll shed the last drop of their blood, but would not allow any harm to come to the motherland.

LINDSEY HILSUM: A village on the Pakistani side was hit by Indian shelling last night. The Indian government says it will give an official response to the speech tomorrow.