- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2001

NEW DELHI India moved ballistic missiles and troops to its tense border with Pakistan yesterday, ordering thousands of villagers to evacuate the disputed Kashmir region. The leaders of both South Asian nuclear rivals said they do not seek war but are prepared for it.
The troop and military hardware movements were the latest sign of soaring tensions since a Dec. 13 suicide attack on India's Parliament that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants. India said Pakistan's spy agency sponsored the attack with the help of two Islamic militant groups the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed which were battling to end Indian rule in Kashmir.
India moved air force jets closer to the border yesterday and smashed a dozen Pakistani bunkers.
"We do not want war, but war is being thrust on us, and we will have to face it," Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said at a public address at his residence.
That sentiment was echoed by Pakistan's military leader, President Pervez Musharraf, who assured his country that the armed forces "are fully prepared and capable of defeating all challenges."
Gen. Musharraf did say, however, that relations could improve if India sheds its "superiority complex" and deals with Pakistan "on an equal footing." He also used a speech marking the 125th birthday of the nation's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, to criticize Muslim extremists for tarnishing Islam's image by promoting hatred.
In another move that could help ease tensions, his government yesterday briefly detained the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed.
A major shift appeared to be under way regarding the groups, which previously had been allowed to openly raise money and recruit volunteers in Pakistan. On Monday, Lashkar-e-Taiba said it had closed its Islamabad office and would operate only in Kashmir.
While Indian officials have hinted repeatedly at a potential military response to the Parliament attack, which killed 14 persons including the five attackers, they have emphasized that war with Pakistan would be a last resort if diplomatic efforts to achieve their goals fail.
Nonetheless, signs of the dispute between India and Pakistan were everywhere, and India's ambassador to Pakistan, Vijay Nambiar, warned the conflict was becoming difficult to control.
"The situation is getting more and more difficult to contain. There is a very strong sense of mistrust," Mr. Nambiar said upon his return to New Delhi. He was recalled from Pakistan last week.
To smooth troop and weapons transportation in the area of the border, Indian railroad authorities suspended about a dozen passenger train routes linking air bases and other military facilities.
As about 2,000 Indian villagers along the Kashmir border moved out, Indian and Pakistani army troops continued to shell each other's positions and trade small-arms fire.
One Indian soldier was killed, a civilian truck damaged and its driver wounded, an army official said on the condition of anonymity. Television showed Indian men and women hiding behind walls, screaming and ducking as bullets soared over their heads.
Border skirmishes are common between India and Pakistan along the border in Kashmir, but clashes have become more frequent since the suicide attack. The two countries share borders across four Indian states, including Jammu and Kashmir.
Indian gunners targeted Pakistani army positions and hit 12 bunkers, army spokesman Lt. Col. H.S. Oberoi said.
In New Delhi, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported that India had moved short-range missiles to northern Punjab state, along the Pakistani border. Lt. Col. Oberoi said Pakistani units were seen moving medium-range missile batteries to the border in Kashmir.
An Indian air force official said air force jets and weapons had been moved toward the border after military authorities received concrete intelligence that Pakistan was moving its forces there. Thousands of soldiers are said to be massing near the border on both sides.
Some in India are asking the government to end trade with Pakistan, prohibit its planes from flying through Indian airspace, and even revoke a treaty on the sharing of river water that irrigates Pakistani farmland.
Amid the clamor for war were voices demanding peace.
In New Delhi, hundreds of women, children and social workers formed a human chain around India Gate, a British-era sandstone gateway built in the memory of martyred soldiers. They held placards that said, "We want peace, not war."
With the shutdown of Lashkar-e-Taiba in Islamabad yesterday, major Islamic guerrilla groups now apparently have no official presence in Pakistan.
Jaish-e-Mohammed and a third group, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, closed their Pakistani offices shortly after the September 11 terrorist strikes in the United States.
Under orders from Pakistani security agencies, the groups have pledged to remove their billboards, banners and flags from major cities and agreed to stop soliciting donations.
India and Muslim-majority Pakistan have fought two wars in half a century over Kashmir, a mostly Muslim region that is divided between them but claimed by both. Both countries tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

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