- India and Pakistan moved closer to a state of war yesterday,
as Delhi recalled its envoy from Islamabad and sealed border crossings
and both sides deployed thousands of reinforcements along their frontier.
- The sabre-rattling raised fears around the world that
the two nuclear powers were on the brink of a new round of bloodshed, which
would undermine the international coalition,s war against terror in the
- India began the escalation when it withdrew Vijay Nambiar,
its High Commissioner in Islamabad. The move is more than a symbolic diplomatic
- Only twice before, in 1965 and again in 1971, has Delhi
recalled its envoy. On each occasion the two countries were at war shortly
- The action followed growing demands across the political
spectrum in India for the Army to attack two militant Islamic groups that
are based across the border in Pakistan and accused of carrying out the
attack last week on the Indian Parliament that left 14 dead, including
the five assailants.
- India and Pakistan last clashed in 1999 in a mountain
battle at Kargil in the disputed Kashmir province. Hundreds of Indian and
Pakistani troops were killed.
- This time the stakes are even higher. In addition to
reinforcements along the Line of Control, which separates the two sides
in Kashmir, tanks, artillery and infantry have also been deployed along
the normally peaceful Rajasthan-Sind border.
- Yesterday,s escalation began when India launched a verbal
assault against its historic rival, accusing Pakistan of "sponsoring
last week,s suicide attack on the Indian Parliament. Pakistan hit back
by charging the Indians with provocation and warning Delhi that it would
defend itself if attacked.
- The threats and counter- threats caused alarm in Washington
and London, which are preoccupied with trying to complete their operations
against terrorist suspects in Afghanistan and instal a new government in
Kabul. To achieve that they need stability in the region and the help of
President Musharraf of Pakistan.
- Western sources said that they feared that the Pakistani
leader was not able to control elements of his military and intelligence
services, who were deliberately encouraging extremist groups in the hope
of provoking a clash with India.
- Western officials privately appealed to India to show
restraint, but the Government in Delhi was under mounting public pressure
to respond decisively.
- In addition to recalling its envoy, India cut road and
rail links, including the DelhiLahore bus service, which was opened only
two years ago as part of a peace drive between the two neighbours.
- The Indian authorities alleged that the five gunmen involved
in last week,s gun and grenade attack were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and
Jaish-e-Muhammad, two Kashmiri rebel groups based in Pakistan.
- Indian investigators claim that the conspiracy to storm
Parliament House in Delhi was hatched in Pakistan and that the cellphone
records of the dead assailants and the confessions of those arrested for
abetting them establish Pakistan,s involvement.
- On Thursday the Indian Government produced one of the
accused, an Indian named Kashmiri Mohammed Afzal, before the media. He
said that the suicide squad was from Pakistan and that he was the link
man between them and Jaish-e-Muhammad.
- The Indian Government is upset by what it considers the
US,s refusal to accept the evidence of Pakistan,s role in continuing to
foment terrorism in India and believes that the US is deliberately turning
a blind eye because it does not want General Musharraf to be destabilised.
- Pakistan has rejected India,s accusations that its intelligence
service supported the attack and said that it would take no action until
India supplied proof. India on Thursday rejected a US request to share
its evidence with Pakistan so that General Musharraf could crack down on
- Most defence observers agree that the situation in the
region is the most serious since May 1999 when Pakistan,s military intrusion
in Kashmir brought the two nations close to a full war. The danger was
averted when Pakistan pulled out its troops from Kashmir,s Kargil mountain
post under US pressure.