- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

India's defense minister said yesterday troops will remain on a war footing since there is no sign that Pakistan had stopped Muslim fighters from crossing into Indian-controlled Kashmir.

He spoke in Washington as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell flew from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad to New Delhi in an attempt to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

"Regarding cross-border terrorists, there hasn't been particular action from the Pakistani side," Defense Minister George Fernandes told The Washington Times.

"We would like Pakistan to stop them with immediate effect," Mr. Fernandes said in an interview.

In Islamabad on Wednesday, Mr. Powell praised Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for arresting extremists and banning their organizations.

The secretary of state then flew to New Delhi yesterday, with a quick stop in Afghanistan.

In India, he refused to pressure India to pull its huge army back from the Pakistani border.

"It is up to India to make a judgment as a sovereign nation as to whether [Pakistans] actions constitute sufficient basis for them to change the policies they are pursuing at the moment," Mr. Powell said at a joint press conference with India's Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh.

He emphasized, however, that tensions have eased.

In Kashmir, yesterday, a bomb blast in a crowded market killed one shopper and injured 10 others.

Police, speaking on the condition of anonymity, did not immediately blame Islamic militants for the blast in Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state.

Pakistan also has refused so far to hand over 20 persons India seeks on charges of terrorism. If the men are not handed over and infiltration does not end, India is threatening to attack Pakistan in the fourth Indo-Pakistani war since 1947.

Although Indian military commanders warned in recent days they were ready for a war, even a nuclear war, Mr. Fernandes said diplomacy was continuing.

"No one is discussing war," he said. "At a Cabinet security committee meeting the day before yesterday, there was no talk of [attacking Pakistan]."

India has shifted hundreds of thousands of troops to the Pakistan border since a Dec. 13 attack on the Parliament in New Delhi left five extremists and nine Indians dead. India says the terrorists were supported by Pakistan.

One terrorist died on the threshold of the prime minister's office and another on the steps of the home minister, said Mr. Fernandes, calling it proof they sought to destroy India's leadership.

Mr. Powell, on a visit Wednesday to Pakistan and yesterday in India, walked a diplomatic tightrope to appear balanced between the two rivals.

He refused to accept Pakistani calls for American mediation of the competing claims to ownership of Kashmir, keeping to the Indian doctrine that "Kashmir has to be resolved by direct dialogue between the two parties."

But he offered to help the two countries with their dialogue.

India remains cynical about Pakistan's recent attempts to move against extremists and fears the roundups will be mere window dressing rather than an end to arming and backing attacks against India.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar yesterday equated cross-border terrorism with India's suppression of separatists a statement sure to make India wonder about Pakistan's intentions.

"A just cause is not ennobled by killing of innocent civilians, nor can the civilized community of nations condone the use of force for repression of the legitimate cause of the people," Mr. Sattar said at a joint press conference in Islamabad with Mr. Powell.

Mr. Fernandes said he came to Washington to "strengthen defense ties" with the United States.

India and the United States have improved relations since the end of the Cold War, but ties were set back after India tested nuclear weapons in May 1998, followed soon thereafter by Pakistan.

Cooperation resumed gradually, in part as a counterpoint to troubled U.S.-China relations.

After the September 11 attacks, India offered the United States intelligence on al Qaeda and the Taliban as well use of its ports and other facilities in the war on terrorism.

"There is mutual understanding of each other's concerns and to all extents and purposes, we are walking hand in hand," Mr. Fernandes said.

Mr. Fernandes met yesterday with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

He also planned to visit the U.S. naval base at Norfolk.

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