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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 11:09 GMT
US voices South Asia war fear
India's Agni missile
Both countries now have a nuclear capability
The chance of war between India and Pakistan is at its highest for 30 years, according to the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

CIA chief George Tenet
George Tenet: Assessing worldwide threats
George Tenet, who was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on threats to US interests worldwide, said there was a danger of a major conflagration involving the two nuclear-armed states over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

"If India were to conduct large-scale offensive operations into Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, Pakistan might retaliate with strikes of its own in the belief that its nuclear deterrent would limit the scope of an Indian counterattack."

In his testimony, Mr Tenet noted that both countries publicly downplayed the risk of nuclear conflict.

And after his remarks, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said tension in the region had eased significantly as a result of diplomatic efforts by the US.

Fears of a confrontation rose sharply last December, after an attack on the Indian parliament which Delhi blamed on Pakistani-backed militants.

Pakistan's changes

The CIA chief also spoke about the challenges facing the Pakistani leader, General Musharraf.

Pakistani soldier at the border
The two sides have vast forces on their borders
He described his decision to align Pakistan with the US after the 11 September attacks as "a fundamental political shift with inherent risks."

President Musharraf's declaration that he wanted to establish a moderate, tolerant Islamic state "is being welcomed by most Pakistanis," according to Mr Tenet.

It is not the first time that the US has voiced concern about tension between India and Pakistan.

Two years ago, the then US President, Bill Clinton, described South Asia as the world's most dangerous place.

However, the attacks on the US and subsequent war against the Taleban and al-Qaeda have thrown Washington's concern sharply into focus.

See also:

19 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pakistan expels Indian diplomats
05 Mar 02 | South Asia
India expels two Pakistanis for spying
29 Jan 02 | South Asia
Pakistan urges India to talk
07 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistan expels Indian diplomat
02 Jan 02 | South Asia
India cool over Pakistan talks
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