- NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD
(Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen massacred a Muslim family, including eight
children, in troubled Indian Kashmir Monday as Pakistan played down fears
of war with India over the disputed region.
- Dozens of people, including civilians, have died in the
almost daily violence which has racked the Himalayan area since the latest
row erupted between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over anti-Indian Kashmiri
separatists based in Pakistan.
- Indian police said gunmen burst into the family's house
in Kashmir's Poonch district, bordering Pakistan and shot dead eight children
aged between two and 12, along with two women and a man.
- There was no immediate claim of responsibility by any
of the Islamic groups fighting Indian rule in the mainly Hindu nation's
only Muslim-majority state.
- As both sides struggle to defuse the crisis, Pakistan
President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with Newsweek magazine
that war was unlikely but not impossible after a lessening of military
and diplomatic tensions.
- About a million troops are massed on the border, stoking
fears of a fourth war between India and Pakistan, and a third over Kashmir,
since their independence from Britain in 1947.
- MUSHARRAF OPTIMISTIC
- But Musharraf said there were reasons for optimism.
- ``India has downgraded their air-reaction forces,'' Newsweek
quoted him saying in an interview dated Jan. 18. ``And some (ground) forces
that would give them full potential for an offensive, they have not (been
- ``Let me assure you from a military point of view, from
a diplomatic-political point of view, I don't think there can be war --
unless there's some mad action, but that's always a possibility.''
- Secretary of State Colin Powell visited both countries
last week in a bid to ease tension which has built up since a Dec. 13 attack
on India's parliament which New Delhi blames on Pakistani-backed Kashmiri
- Powell ended his trip saying he believed the two countries
were ready to try to avert war, although India says it will not withdraw
troops from the border until Pakistan delivers on a pledge to curb Islamic
- India says Pakistan is sponsoring ``cross-border terrorism''
to undermine its rule in Kashmir, while Pakistan accuses India of repressing
Kashmir's mainly Muslim people.
- Pakistan has banned five militant groups and rounded
up 2,000 people, but India says that is not yet enough.
- ``It hasn't yet translated itself on the ground,'' Indian
Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said, noting that in a democracy it would
take two to three governments to implement reforms as big as those promised
by Pakistan's military dictator.
- INDIA FIRM ON KASHMIR
- In the Newsweek interview, Musharraf called the dispute
over Kashmir ``one of the most serious conflicts in the world'' and agreed
there was a risk of nuclear war in the region as a result.
- ``This dispute has been going on for almost 50 years.
Both countries being nuclear-capable, certainly one realizes this must
be dangerous,'' he told Newsweek. ``That's why I keep saying we must resolve
this core issue, otherwise this danger remains.''
- But Singh told a seminar the notion Kashmir should move
to Pakistan simply because it was mainly Muslim made no sense since it
would imply that all India's other Muslim areas should also be incorporated
- ``Do I put them on a railway track and transfer them
to west Pakistan?'' he asked, adding Kashmir could just as easily be handed
to Muslim Bangladesh, which was once East Pakistan.
- But Musharraf expressed optimism a solution to the dispute
could be found.
- ``Both groups have to show realism and flexibility and
reach a solution, there's no doubt in my mind we can reach a solution.''