- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

President Bush tried to assure India's home minister yesterday that Pakistan would stop terrorism, but the minister remained skeptical and India's army announced major war exercises along the Pakistani border.

Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani, known as the leading hawk in the Indian government, demanded yesterday that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf do more than pledge to crack down on terrorism.

He refused to say war will be averted and said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell did not ask that India pull its troops back from the border, where both sides are mobilized on war footings.

"I hope that apart from the [terrorist and separatist] war that is going on [in Kashmir], there should be nothing more," Mr. Advani said in a meeting with editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

He said experience with Gen. Musharraf in the last few years has caused "skepticism and cynicism" in India.

Mr. Advani called for "action on the ground" by Pakistan in blocking militants from entering Indian-held territory, stopping the training and recruiting of terrorists, and handing over 20 accused terrorists. However, he indicated that there is time to avert a fourth India-Pakistan war.

"We have been facing a war for over a decade," he said, referring to the bloody fighting in Kashmir that has left about 60,000 dead since 1990. He said India responded with "ad hoc measures, trying to arrest and punish" the attackers who India says are trained, armed and backed by Pakistan.

"After September 11, we felt this response is inadequate. Not that this is a new war the war was already on."

The act that sparked India's mobilization of its forces along the Pakistani border was the Dec. 13 attack on the Indian Parliament in which 14 persons, including the five attackers, were killed. Mr. Advani said yesterday that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency "did know" about the attack, according to an Indian accomplice captured afterward.

However, he said India is not sure whether Gen. Musharraf was aware of the plot, which could have led to "a massacre" if the terrorists had entered the legislative chamber, where no security forces carry weapons, a tradition inherited from the British Parliament.

After an unscheduled meeting with Mr. Bush yesterday at the White House, during a meeting with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Advani told reporters that Mr. Bush expected Pakistan to pull the plug on terrorists aimed at India.

Mr. Bush expected Gen. Musharraf to "take all necessary steps in fighting terror and abandon terror as an instrument of state policy," Mr. Advani said.

"To hear all this from the highest executive in the country makes all the difference."

As Mr. Advani made the rounds in Washington, Indian officials said they would hold the largest military exercises in many years along the Pakistani border: Operation Parakram (Might) and Operation Sangharsh (Struggle) for a month in Rajasthan and Punjab.

The exercises were described as a way to keep the mobilized troops on their toes as the massive deployment continues into its third week. But it was sure to heighten tension that has led tens of thousands of villagers to evacuate from regions along the border.

India has withdrawn its ambassador; halved the size of both nations' diplomatic staffs; and halted train, bus and air traffic between the two countries.

Pakistan also received 10 jet fighters from China, the first part of a much larger shipment, in recent days, reports said. However, facing a much larger Indian military force, Pakistan has been scrambling to revive talks with the Indians and has arrested dozens of militants to undercut any justification for an attack.

Although Mr. Advani denied that politics was one reason India might carry out an attack, Indian analysts note that coming elections in the populous Uttar Pradesh state could be affected by hostilities. Supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have long demanded tougher action against Pakistan over its support for Kashmiri separatists.

Gen. Musharraf is expected to make a major speech in the coming days that will declare his intention to outlaw extremism and restore Pakistan to its original vision of a tolerant, modern Islamic state, Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar said Wednesday in an interview with The Washington Times.

Gen. Musharraf has broken with past Pakistani policy by abandoning support for the Afghan Taliban Islamic fundamentalists and allowed U.S. troops use of Pakistani air bases to drive them from power.

But India is threatening war unless he goes much further and halts the 10-year-long support for militants who have turned Indian-held Kashmir into a bloody, armed camp.

Mr. Advani noted that the United States' "biggest objective was to get Pakistan to dissociate from the Taliban," and he said stopping attacks on India were "not so important."

"But if the United States wants to end terrorism, it does not make sense that Pakistan says it stopped terrorism on the west [Afghan border] but not on the east [the Indian border]," Mr. Advani said.

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