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India Considers Diplomacy, War As Solutions to Pakistan Conflict

BY Admin  December 19, 2001 at 4:30 PM EDT

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told the parliament, ”All efforts must be made to prevent war.”

“All options other than conflict should be explored and evaluated.”

But the Indian government is not ruling out war as a possible response to last week’s suicide attack that killed 14 people, including the five assailants. No parliament members were hurt.

“We are trying to use diplomacy as a weapon but other options are open and we will consider them carefully before taking any decision,” Vajpayee said.

India says all five assailants were Pakistani and that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency sponsored the attack on India’s parliament.

Pakistan denies having any role in last week’s suicide attack and accuses India of using the attack to malign Pakistan.

Predominantly-Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan have long been rivals, mostly due to a dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir. The Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir, the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, comprises 45 percent of Kashmir. Pakistan controls about 35 percent of the territory, and China holds the rest.

Pakistani government spokesman Anwar Mahmood said if India initiates a war on Pakistan, “then it will be paid back in the same coin.”

Last week, Vajpayee demanded that Pakistani officials arrest two Pakistan-based militant groups accused of planning terrorist attacks on India. The Lashkar-e-Taiba is believed responsible for last week’s attack on the New Delhi parliament building, and the Jaish-e-Mohammed is accused of orchestrating an October attack on the Jammu-Kashmir legislature that killed 38 people.

Both militant groups have denied responsibility for the attacks.

The Pakistani government has said it will only comply with India’s demands to arrest the Pakistani militants if there is concrete proof of their guilt.

“What proof do we need?” Vajpayee said. “The bullet marks on the Parliament walls, the bodies of the terrorists, who were Pakistani nationals — that is the proof by itself.”

“This battle is not between Hindus and Muslims,” Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani said. “This is between civilized society and uncivilized society, terrorism and barbarism… this is terrorism versus civilization.”

Indian officials have repeatedly called for the support of other nations as they battle terrorism on their soil, and have questioned the United States’ alliance with Pakistan in its own war on terrorism.

“All those who are preaching to us to remain restrained should also talk to our neighbor,” Vajpayee said. “Ask them how long they can continue with this game.”

Pakistan has said it supports the cause of the militant separatist groups it calls “freedom fighters,” but does not aid them in their activities.

Despite Vajpayee’s pledge to pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict, the recent escalation in tension between the two nuclear powers will most likely thwart a planned meeting between the Indian prime minister and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

According to Pakistani foreign minister Abdul Sattar, the proposed meeting between Vajpayee and Musharraf during the January summit of South Asian leaders in Nepal will probably not occur.

Fighting at the Border

Suspected militant Kashmiri separatists today tossed a grenade that killed one person and injured at least 60 in Pulwama, a town in the Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir.

Indian army officials said twelve militants were killed in fighting elsewhere in Jammu-Kashmir, an area that sees frequent gunfights over the border dividing India and Pakistan. Six of those killed were from the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, the army said.

Kashmiri police said they had arrested four more people suspected of being connected to the attack on the Parliament building, bringing the number of those detained to eight, almost all of whom are Kashmiris.

Both India and Pakistan accused the other of building up troops along the Kashmir border.

“There is a build up on the other side,” Indian army chief Gen. S. Padmanabhan told reporters. “They have moved in certain forces. Certain forces which should have gone back have not gone back.”

Pakistani officials dismissed the General’s claim.

“There is no build-up at all,” Pakistani spokesman Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi told Reuters in Islamabad. “It is possible that in order to justiy their own build-up they might be shifting blame onto Pakistan.”

An Associated Press report said Indian tanks, anti-aircraft guns and mortars were seen moving toward the Kashmiri border.

Indian officials say more than 30,000 people have been killed in the battle to separate Kashmir from India since 1989. Separatists put the death toll closer to 80,000.