- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 28, 2002

LAHORE, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan blamed "Indian tyranny" yesterday for the crisis that has brought the two nuclear-armed countries to the brink of war.
In a long-awaited state of the nation address that provoked a swift and hostile response from New Delhi, Gen. Musharraf said he was not seeking war with India but insisted that the army would defend the country to its "last drop of blood."
Dismissing accusations that Pakistan was fueling the 13-year insurgency in the disputed state of Kashmir, he said Pakistan would always support the struggle of the mainly Muslim Kashmiri people against Indian rule.
He said Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used as a base for terrorism but added, "I want to make one thing clear: Liberation movement is going on in occupied Kashmir, and Pakistan cannot be held responsible for any action against Indian tyranny and repression."
In comments that riled India's leadership, he urged the world to take note of the actions of "Hindu extremists and terrorists" who were perpetrating terrorism against Muslims, Christians and Sikhs in India.
In New Delhi, Omar Abdullah, the minister of state for external affairs, said: "I think it is obviously going to make us very angry the stuff we had about Hindu terrorists and the rest of it. I have yet to hear of Hindu terrorists operating in Kashmir."
The general made his uncompromising statement hours before Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, arrived in the region for talks to avert war between the two nuclear powers.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is reported to be planning a trip to the region on a similar mission.
Before he left Berlin, Mr. Straw said the conflict could degenerate into "a conventional and then nuclear conflict of a kind we have never seen before."
He said that the result would be "death, destruction, disease, economic collapse affecting not just the immediate war theater but many parts of the subcontinent and lasting for years."
[A recent Pentagon assessment concluded that between 9 million and 12 million people would die in a nuclear war on the subcontinent and that 2 million to 7 million would be injured. The contamination would spread far beyond India and Pakistan. U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan and U.S. troops in Pakistan and Central Asia would be affected.]
Gen. Musharraf's speech seemed certain to make international efforts to ease tensions more difficult.
India and Pakistan have massed 1 million men along their border since the December attack on India's parliament an attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based Kashmiri militants.
Tensions were reignited by a recent attack on the wives and children of Indian troops, in which 33 persons were killed.
Gen. Musharraf denied charges from Indian and world leaders, including President Bush, that his country was helping Kashmiri militants cross from Pakistan into Indian Kashmir.
"I said in my Jan. 12 speech that Pakistani soil will not be used for any terrorist activity, and I repeat it again to the whole world," he said. "No infiltration is taking place from the Line of Control."
Gen. Musharraf accused India of creating war hysteria and of not reacting positively to his Jan. 12 speech. He then said India was constantly blaming Pakistan for every act of terrorism on its soil while Pakistan itself was facing terrorist attacks at home.
"This aggressive naming and blaming coming from the Indian leadership is extremely irresponsible," he said. "It creates a situation of war hysteria, and we do not accept it at all."
The world should recognize what he had achieved since the war on terrorism began, Gen. Musharraf said, and should do more to persuade India to normalize relations with Pakistan and to recognize the struggle of the Kashmiris.
Separatists in Indian-administered Kashmir welcomed Gen. Musharraf's words of support.
Abbas Ansari, an executive member of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference, urged India to give up "intransigence" and start a dialogue with Islamabad and the people of Kashmir to resolve the dispute over the Himalayan region.
"If the issue is resolved, there would be no problem at all between the two nuclear powers," he said.


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