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India Talks Tough on Kashmir

November 01, 2001|Associated Press

JAMMU, India — The commander of Indian troops in disputed Kashmir warned Wednesday that if pushed, New Delhi could choose military action against Pakistan's army and Islamic guerrillas.

In the most aggressive comments in years by a military commander, Lt. Gen. R.K. Nanavatty said that India "must remain prepared to exercise the military action" and that the capture of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir was "achievable."

India and Pakistan, each of which conducted nuclear tests in 1998, have fought two wars over the Himalayan region of Kashmir in the last half a century.

Tensions have increased sharply since an Oct. 1 car bombing and gunfight killed 40 people at the state legislature in Jammu and Kashmir state, the Indian-ruled part of Kashmir. An Islamic group that operates in Pakistan claimed responsibility, then denied it.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting Islamic separatists fighting a 12-year insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state. Pakistan refutes the charge. India is mainly Hindu.

"The nuclearization of the subcontinent might have altered the situation, but despite that, the space exists for a limited conventional operation," Nanavatty said.

India's military had refrained from such references to war even during the 1999 frontier fighting with Pakistan that killed hundreds of soldiers.

Asked about the threat that India is in a position to seize Pakistan's northern areas and its part of Kashmir, Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, spokesman for Pakistan's military government, said it was not worthy of comment. "They are totally mistaken," he said.

He also said Pakistan "has tried unilaterally to defuse the situation and prevent friction," adding that Pakistan withdrew forces from the border in Kashmir.

"If India wants to escalate tensions, Pakistan would continue to exercise restraint and take bare-minimum measures," Qureshi said.

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