India Deploys Fighter Jets As
Pakistan Tension Rises
By Terry Friel and
Jane Macartney

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - India said on Wednesday its missile systems were in position and it had deployed fighter jets to bases along the Pakistani border where terrified villagers fled possible war between the nuclear rivals.
India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars in barely half a century, traded fire in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir and bolstered forces along their 2,070-mile border in the biggest build-up in almost 15 years.
Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said the country's missile systems were "in position," but did not elaborate.
India, pressing Islamabad to crush Kashmiri separatists operating from Pakistan, also said the detention of a rebel leader there did not go far enough, undermining hopes the move could help defuse the tensions.
The Cabinet's security committee met Wednesday to decide the next step in the row sparked by the December 13 suicide attack on the Indian parliament, but adjourned until Thursday without a decision because Fernandes was absent.
India blames the attack on two Pakistan-based groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir and has demanded Islamabad crush them.
Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf used a speech Tuesday to warn India that Pakistan was ready for anything.
"Let me assure my countrymen that your armed forces are fully prepared and capable of defeating all challenges," he said.
As tensions rise, Indian police said Pakistani forces fired at least 12 artillery rounds in Kashmir overnight, forcing the evacuation of at least 200 civilians.
Both sides are now trading daily mortar, machinegun and small arms fire along the cease-fire line dividing Kashmir.
Fears of war and the fallout weighed heavily on India's financial markets, driving down stocks, bonds and the rupee.
Asked if fighter planes had been moved to forward bases over the past couple of days, a defense ministry spokesman told Reuters: "Yes, that has been happening."
He described the move as a "precautionary measure."
India's military has canceled some leave and its Army Day parade scheduled for January 15, but officials say Republic Day celebrations will go ahead as planned on January 26.
Indian newspapers also said Pakistan had moved medium range ballistic missile batteries into forward areas, quoting un-named Indian sources. Pakistani comment was not immediately available.
Analysts say the saber-rattling is worse than the Kargil conflict of 1999 when the two countries came close to war after hundreds of armed intruders crossed into Kashmir's Kargil sector from Pakistan, prompting a huge Indian air and ground offensive.
Then, communications were more open and India did not withdraw its top envoy from Islamabad as it has done now. But they also point out the situation on the ground is so far calmer.
In India's west, military convoys headed for the border while a steady stream of civilians carrying household goods and food supplies headed the other way, fearing war and unable to work fields now taken over by the military.
District officials in the western desert state of Rajasthan said blackout exercises were being held in border districts at night to prepare civilians ahead of a possible war.
"Sirens are sounded, air force planes will fly over the cities and no power generator sets will be allowed to function," one district official told Reuters.
Two thirds of the people in some villages have already fled.
"Every morning, we get up to work in our fields and discover more and more of our land occupied by tanks and artillery guns," said farmer Jagjit Singh. "We return home, unable to do anything."
India has demanded Pakistan arrest leaders of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which it says were responsible for the attack on parliament in which 14 people died.
Both groups deny any involvement.
The United States has declared Jaish a terrorist group.
Pakistan has condemned the parliament attack and said it will act against the groups if it is shown evidence of their involvement and has detained Jaish leader Maulana Azhar Masood.
It has also told banks to freeze the assets of both groups.
It was unclear where Pakistani police had taken Masood, although a Jaish leader had said Tuesday he was detained in his home in the central Punjab town of Bahawalpur.
Jaish sources said the police had also rounded up 37 other group activists in the Bahawalpur area.
Without referring specifically to Masood, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said after the cabinet committee the actions against "terrorist groups" in Pakistan "made a mockery of the gravity of the situation and the enormity of the issue."
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