- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002

From combined dispatches
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Pakistan told India yesterday it planned to test short- and medium-range missiles this weekend amid fears the nuclear-capable rivals could wage war over disputed Kashmir.
As Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee left for a break of several days in the Himalayan foothills, his Foreign Ministry said Pakistan had told India the missile tests between today and Tuesday were routine and not related to tensions over the Muslim-majority region.
"The government of India is not particularly impressed by these missile antics, clearly targeted at the domestic audience in Pakistan," the ministry said in a brief statement. It gave no further details.
A Pakistani official in Islamabad confirmed the tests, and Pakistan state television said they were technical and not related to current tensions. It was not clear which missiles were to be tested or whether they were nuclear-capable.
Mr. Vajpayee, meanwhile, wrote a letter to President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Russian President Vladimir Putin stressing that India was running out of patience with Pakistan.
"We have exercised restraint all these months in the face of requests by the international community that we would see a change in Pakistan's attitude. That hasn't happened," Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said, paraphrasing Mr. Vajpayee's letter.
She said the letter also indicated that "there is a sense of anger in this country, and public opinion is unanimously united on the need to bring an end to this."
Despite Mr. Vajpayee's decision to go ahead with his brief vacation, the United States said before the missile announcement that the situation was "very dangerous."
In Islamabad, the vice chief of the army general staff, Gen. Mohammed Yusaf Khan, warned that Pakistan would react to any attack "with our full might," the Associated Press of Pakistan news agency reported.
"We will not only defend [ourselves], but also attack when the time comes and carry the war into the enemy territory," he was quoted as telling front-line troops in disputed Kashmir. Gen. Khan is No. 2 in the army to the country's military ruler and army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
As India and Pakistan reported more heavy firing overnight across the cease-fire line in Kashmir, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell urged both sides to reduce tensions.
"It's very dangerous, but I hope both sides realize they're at a very critical point. And we'll get them to step back," he told reporters in Moscow before news of the missile-test plan.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will visit the region June 4.
European Union External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, the first of a string of top-level envoys visiting the subcontinent in the latest international peace push, said in New Delhi the situation was on a knife's edge.
"I think India's patience is close to breaking point," he told reporters, urging Pakistan to stop Islamic militants who have been slipping across the border into Indian Kashmir a central demand by New Delhi.
"I think the situation, and I say this with anything but pleasure, is as hot as the weather and on the knife edge," Mr. Patten told British Broadcasting Corp. television in New Delhi, where temperatures soared close to 110 degrees.
Both sides have massed 1 million men along the border, backed by missile batteries, tanks and fighter planes, since a raid on India's Parliament in December. New Delhi blamed it on Pakistan-based militants.
Tensions worsened after a raid last week on an Indian army camp in Kashmir, which India blamed on the same Islamic groups it holds responsible for the attack on Parliament.
Gen. Musharraf said in an interview he did not want war.
"Nobody no sane person would like to go to war. But certainly the tensions are high, and it's dangerous because India has massed its troops on the border army, navy as well as air force," he told the BBC.
"We hope good sense prevails on all sides. We would like to cooperate, certainly, because we don't want war," he said.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide