- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

From combined dispatches
NEW DELHI India said yesterday it was prepared to use its full military might to defend itself amid threats by Pakistan-based Islamic guerrilla groups to mount further attacks on the country.
Nuclear rivals Pakistan and India have come to the brink of war in the wake of an assault last month on India's Parliament that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based Kashmiri separatists.
"Whatever weapon is available, we will use it to defend ourselves," Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said in his constituency of Lucknow in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
"And if because of that weapon, the attacker is defeated if he is killed, we should not be held responsible," said Mr. Vajpayee, who analysts say is under pressure to appear tough in advance of state elections in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.
In Islamabad, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf warned India it would pay a heavy price for any attack, but promised that his country would not be the first to go to war.
"Pakistan wants peace and de-escalation, but should a mistake of attacking Pakistan be made, they would regret their decision," Gen. Musharraf told a joint meeting of the National Security Council and the Cabinet.
India carried out nuclear tests in 1998, which were followed by tit-for-tat blasts by Pakistan. India has adopted a "no first use" policy for its nuclear weapons, saying they would only be used in retaliation. But Pakistan, whose conventional forces are far inferior, has not adopted a similar policy.
After the Parliament attack, in which 14 persons including the five attackers died, India demanded that Pakistan crack down on Muslim militants operating from its soil against India and said all options were open including war unless Islamabad acted.
Earlier, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes told Reuters that Indian forces have completed their biggest-ever buildup, but are "not in battle positions."
He held out hope that diplomacy could still avert a war with Pakistan. "Efforts are being made to defuse the situation through diplomatic intervention," he said.
Despite the crisis, both Mr. Vajpayee and Gen. Musharraf plan to attend the summit of South Asian nations that begins in Katmandu, Nepal, tomorrow.
Plans for a meeting of the two leaders on the fringes of the summit have been scrapped, but Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Abdul Sattar, "shook hands with smiling faces" at a pre-summit meeting, a conference spokesman said.
All political parties in India are urging the government to use diplomacy as the first option.
But Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, accused of the Parliament attack, threatened further violence.
Security was tightened at India's famed Taj Mahal monument after Indian officials said they had received an e-mail from Lashkar-e-Taiba threatening to blow up the landmark to love.
And Jaish-e-Mohammed said in a statement published in Kashmir newspapers that it would carry out new attacks on Indian security forces.
"We are in possession of more deadly and sophisticated weapons, and they will be fully used against the military and paramilitary forces of India in the coming days," the group said.
Hours later a grenade exploded in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, wounding 20 persons, including five policemen, police said. Elsewhere, in a space of 24 hours, 18 persons were killed across strife-torn Kashmir.
The border remained tense as Indian police said four Pakistani soldiers were killed when Indian and Pakistani troops fired mortars and heavy machine guns across the frontier.
Pakistan has so far rounded up around 100 activists in response to India's demands to arrest militants, according to officials of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
India has called the arrests a step in the right direction.
But Jaish-e-Mohammed said it would seek to escape the net by shifting its offices into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, which covers two-thirds of the disputed region.
Amid mounting international alarm about the specter of war, President Bush has weighed in with calls for restraint by both parties, telephoning Mr. Vajpayee and Gen. Musharraf and urging talks.


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