India's Defence Minister
Fernandes Talks Of War
By Our Correspondent
The News - Pakistan

WASHINGTON - Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes has said that the steps Pakistan has taken so far to crack down on militants are illusory and have done nothing to reduce the level of terrorist violence. In another swing of India's now-hot-now-cold reaction, Fernandes blasted Pakistan in an interview with The New York Times. He flatly said that he did not believe that Pakistan's military intelligence agency had been ordered to end its support of groups fighting what they call a holy war against India.

The arrests of dozens of members of the two groups that India blames for the December 13 suicide attack on its parliament, were intended not to disable the militants but to mislead the US, Fernandes said. With the British prime minister expected to visit the region in the next few days, Fernandes said India would wait to see whether various diplomatic efforts had succeeded in getting Pakistan to take effective action against the groups. "Should they fail, then we are left with only option that the US exercises to deal with terrorism," he said . Asked if he meant the military option, he said: "That's right."

The remarks clearly seemed intended to send a tough message to President Pervez Musharraf, two days before South Asian heads of state begin a regional conference in Kathmandu, Nepal. Fernandes pointed to two incidents of violence on Tuesday as evidence of the continuing mayhem being unleashed by the two groups India accuses, and others: the massacre of a Hindu family of five, including two minor children, in a remote village in held Kashmir and the murder of two army officers and the wounding of four more at a firing range in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh by gunmen wielding AK-47's.

No group claimed responsibility for either attack, but Fernandes said: "it's the usual terrorist crowd." "We pick up dozens of wireless intercepts between them and their Pakistan-based headquarters about the tasks that they undertake," he said, adding: "In so far as their roots and master, there's no doubt it's Pakistan."

In a more positive vein, Fernandes said Pakistan was "listening on certain issues" because of international diplomatic pressure and India's military build-up. But he was categorical that there had been no change on the ground, where he said the accused groups continue to commit acts of terrorism. "None at all," he said. "If we are pushed," he added, "we'll have to take on the war against terrorism all by ourselves."

He refused to describe the precise dimensions of India's military build-up, though he said it mirrored Pakistan's own. He called assertions by Pakistani intelligence officials that India has a million men along the border "rubbish." When asked if hundreds of thousands of men had moved there, he declined to discuss specifics.
The News International, Pakistan

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