- (AFP) - Pakistan said that India's military buildup was
mounting along the border despite hopes its clampdown on militant groups
would defuse tensions between the nuclear-capable rivals.
- The United States has welcomed the arrest of some 100
officials and activists from two Pakistan-based Kashmiri groups India
of mounting a raid on its parliament. New Delhi also hailed it as "a
- But while the neighbours appeared to be backing away
from a dangerous standoff sparked by the December 13 assault, shells
to pound both sides of the frontier dividing the disputed Himalayan state
- "All along the border there is a continuing Indian
military buildup and concentration of forces far in excess of what we have
seen in the past," said military government spokesman Major General
- Its proximity to the border and the Line of Control (LoC)
de facto frontier "poses a threat to Pakistan," which continued
to take "appropriate defensive measures so as not to be surprised
or caught unawares," he said.
- Terrified villagers on both sides of the border were
continuing to flee their homes in their thousands Tuesday amid fears of
- President George W. Bush on Monday praised the clampdown
on Kashmiri militants ordered by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who
has become a key ally in the US-led war on terrorism.
- "He's cracking down hard, and I appreciate his
Terror is terror and the fact that the Pakistani president is after the
terrorists is a good sign," Bush said.
- The US leader, who spoke to Musharraf and his Indian
counterpart Atal Behari Vajpayee on Saturday as tensions reached boiling
point, said he had urged New Delhi not to go to war over the attack on
- "I explained to the Indian prime minister that while
I understood his anger, I was hoping they were not headed for war,"
- British Prime Minister Tony Blair is also due to arrive
in Islamabad next Monday for a one-day visit aimed at defusing the row
between India and Pakistan. His South Asian tour will also take him to
Bangladesh and India.
- As the two nations took the first cautious steps towards
a settlement of their dispute, there were hopes they might agree to
talks at an upcoming South Asian leadership summit in Nepal's capital
- However, Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said
there was no sign of a dialogue taking place at the South Asian Association
for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet, despite Islamabad's desire for talks
at any level.
- "Pakistan will be very happy to have a meeting at
any level, whether it is at the heads of government level or the foreign
minister level," Sattar told AFP in Kathmandu. "However, so far
no formal proposals have been made."
- While India has repeatedly ruled out direct talks between
Musharraf and Indian premier Atal Behari Vajpayee, it had hinted at a
dialogue between the countries' two foreign ministers.
- But a senior Indian official in the Nepalese capital
who asked not to be identified told AFP that "in fact there will be
no bilateral talks at all."
- Vajpayee held out the prospect of a dialogue in a special
message to Pakistan contained in a New Year's article that was quoted on
the front pages of most Indian newspapers Tuesday.
- "Shed your anti-India mentality and take effective
steps to stop cross-border terrorism, and you will find India willing to
walk more than half the distance to work closely with Pakistan to resolve,
through dialogue, any issue, including the contentious issue of Jammu and
Kashmir," he said.
- United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who has
been in touch with both countries in recent days, also urged the neighbours
to seize the opportunity for dialogue at the SAARC summit.
- Annan welcomed Pakistan's crackdown on militants, his
spokesman Fred Eckhard said, adding that he "believes that such
are an important step towards easing tensions in the region."
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