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Musharraf said in a televised address, ”We do not want war. But if war is thrust upon us, we would respond with full might, and give a befitting reply.”
“Pakistan will not be the one to initiate war.”
But he did warn the crisis along the border could grow out of control.
“We are faced with a grave situation and we are standing at the crossroads of history,” he said. “The danger of war is not yet over.”
Musharraf’s comments came as some of the million soldiers deployed along the border exchanged heavy fire and as international leaders called for a diplomatic end to the latest tensions.
Over the weekend, Pakistan tested two ballistic missiles capable of delivery traditional or nuclear weapons deep into India. Although the Pakistani government said the experiments were planned, but the tests drew international scorn.
The latest crisis intensified after an attack by suspected Islamic militants on an Indian army camp in disputed region of Kashmir on May 14. The strike, which killed 34, prompted Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to tell his troops to prepare for a “decisive fight.”
Vajpayee and his government have blamed Pakistan for harboring Islamic separatists and for allowing potential attackers to move across the border territory into Indian-held parts of Kashmir.
“The world says we understand India’s position that cross-border terrorism has to stop and the infiltration of militants into India has to end,” the Indian prime minister said in a speech on Sunday.
Musharraf rejected the criticism today, saying his government condemned the “terrorist” attacks launched against India and was doing everything to prevent militants from crossing the so-called “Line of Control” separating Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir.
“I also want to tell the world and give the assurance that no infiltration is taking place across the Line of Control,” he said. “But I want to make one thing clear: Liberation movement is going on in occupied Kashmir and Pakistan cannot be held responsible for any action against Indian tyranny and repression.”
The Indian government responded skeptically to the Pakistani president’s comments.
“What you see is not what you get as far as Pakistan is concerned,” Indian foreign ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said after Musharraf’s speech.
During his firm, but less belligerent address on Sunday, Vajpayee indicated his government was open to international efforts to avert war.
“There is a limit to our patience and tolerance. The efforts that are going on, we will see to what extent they bear fruit,” he said. “When the world is fighting terrorism and American forces are in Afghanistan fighting the forces of terrorism, then how and for how long can India tolerate terrorism?”
Despite the diplomatic efforts, the two armies continued to fire mortars and machineguns at one another along the 175-mile section of the Line of Control. Indian officials said one Indian soldier was killed and five civilians injured while Pakistani authorities said nine civilians died and 42 wounded in exchanges Sunday and today.
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