- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday there was no certainty war could be avoided between India and Pakistan.
Speaking after completing a phone call with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Mr. Powell noted that even Pakistan's longtime ally China which has supplied it with nuclear and missile technology was advising Pakistan to stand down and end support for terrorism.
"It is a very tense and dangerous situation," Mr. Powell told reporters and editors of The Washington Times at a State Department interview.
"Any situation where you have forces that have mobilized and are in proximity to one another and are at something of a war footing is a dangerous situation."
Fighting continued in disputed Kashmir yesterday with attacks by an Islamic fundamentalist group that India and the United States had labeled "terrorist" but which Pakistan's army had armed and protected for many years.
U.S. pressure on Gen. Musharraf has led him to crack down on two militant groups blamed by India for the Dec. 13 attack on its Parliament that left 14 dead. But India said yesterday the crackdown was not enough.
"I don't see any shift in their position on terrorism as directed against India. I think the time has come for Pakistan to shed the ambivalence it continues to maintain on such issues," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said in New Delhi.
"What we expect from Pakistan is concrete, serious, substantial steps to deal with cross-border terrorism and groups that operate from Pakistani soil. We have yet to see satisfactory action taken."
Mr. Powell said: "I still think there is every opportunity for a political and diplomatic solution. Both sides have said that they are desirous of solving this through political and diplomatic means."
He noted that China "is playing a responsible role in trying to reduce the tensions and not taking one side or the other. … So far, we have prevented a conflict from breaking out."
President Bush on Monday called for Gen. Musharraf, an army commander who seized power from a corrupt civilian government in 1999, to clamp down on Pakistan-based and -controlled militant groups that have left up to 60,000 dead in 10 years of guerrilla warfare and terrorism in Indian-held portions of Kashmir.
Mr. Powell said yesterday that he speaks regularly to Gen. Musharraf to talk "about possibilities with respect to reaching a point where the two sides can say, 'All right, let's start to de-escalate.'"
"We're not at that point yet, but I think there are some elements of progress that I have seen in the last several days that suggest to me that we still have time to find a political and diplomatic solution."
After the attack on the Parliament in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee sent hundreds of thousands of troops toward the Pakistani border, propelling the two countries to their biggest confrontation in 15 years.
India, with more than 1 billion people and a much larger army than Pakistan, is likely to win a conventional war, as it has in all three conflicts the two nations have fought since independence from Britain in 1947.
But both sides now possess nuclear weapons, which they tested in May 1998. Mr. Powell said he has spoken to India and Pakistan about the importance of avoiding the use of nuclear weapons.
"I think both sides recognize the seriousness of this situation and the seriousness of letting it become an armed conflict," he said. "That message has been given to both sides clearly, to include the nuclear aspects of it."
Analysts believe Pakistan would be the first to use nuclear weapons, but only if faced with dismemberment and occupation by India.
India therefore is likely, in the event it does attack, to limit its focus to terrorist and militant sites such as training camps, offices and armories, both in Pakistan-controlled Azad Kashmir and in Pakistan itself.
Mr. Powell has confirmed published reports that Gen. Musharraf plans to speak to his nation in a few days, when he will announce an anti-terrorism plan he hopes will assuage Indian anger.
But Pakistan's long commitment to liberating Kashmir from Indian control makes it hard for Gen. Musharraf to completely renounce support for the armed struggle there.
"Pakistan is a responsible and peace-loving nation, but in case of any aggression, we will respond with complete national will and resolve," he was quoted as telling his army corps commanders at general headquarters.
A group of U.S. senators met with Gen. Musharraf and called on India to respond to his efforts to stop terrorism by arresting about 200 militants including the leaders of the two major militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
"I hope that the leadership of India … will listen carefully to President Musharraf's words in the next few days, and I hope they will find something there to lead them to want to at least sit down and begin negotiations," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and former vice-presidential candidate.
Diplomatic activity continues.
Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji is to visit India next week, when he is likely to be presented with evidence that Chinese ethnic-Uighur Muslim separatists were captured fighting in Kashmir and with al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.
Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani was heading to Washington yesterday, and was to be followed by Defense Minister George Fernandes next week.

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