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Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Tensions rise over Kashmir
Protesters in Srinagar
India insists its Kashmir concerns be addressed
Pakistan has responded swiftly to reports that Indian might step up its operations in the disputed terrritory of Kashmir.

Indian media reported Mr Vajpayee as saying on Thursday that the army could increase operations against militants in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Pakistan is ready... to face any aggression

Pakistan Foreign Ministry
"We are discussing the matter and an operation to this effect might be launched after considering all options, " he said.

Indian Defence Minister Jaswant Singh later made it clear to journalists in Delhi that there were no plans to strike inside Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

In Islamabad, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Pakistan wanted a peaceful resolution of its differences with India.

But he warned: "Pakistan is ready, as was stated by [President Musharraf] ... to face any aggression."

On Wednesday, India said it had accepted an invitation from Pakistan for Mr Singh to hold talks to ease their strained relations.

But an Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the visit was "not imminent".

On Monday Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf phoned Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihal Vajpayee, suggesting the two sides resumed their stalled dialogue.

But India is insisting that any talks must cover what its security concerns over Kashmir.

'Not best time'

Jaswant Singh "has got the invitation. It has been accepted but no dates have been finalised as yet," spokeswoman Nirupama Rao told journalists in Delhi.

"This may not be the best time to undertake the visit," she said.

Indian soldier in Srinagar
Tense times for Indian troops in Srinagar

And she insisted that the deep-seated differences over Kashmir, where India accuses Pakistan of supporting separatist militants, have to be addressed.

"This is the central issue as far as we are concerned. This is an irreducible minimum that has to be satisfactorily dealt with," Ms Rao said.

A week ago, the chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir called on the Indian Government to launch a war against guerrilla camps across the border in Pakistan.

He was responding to a devastating militant attack two days earlier Monday that killed 38 people.

India accused Pakistan of helping the attackers.

President Musharraf's Monday telephone invitation to Mr Vajpayee is the most significant attempt to bring the two sides together since the Agra summit.

President Musharraf has come under intense American pressure since the 11 September terror attacks in New York and on the Pentagon.

Since then he has abandoned his country's long-running support for Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement, giving rise to tension along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Correspondents say President Musharraf may be seeking talks with India to prevent having to deal with military problems on both eastern and western borders.

See also:

09 Oct 01 | South Asia
Pakistan changes direction
08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Excerpts from Musharraf's speech
20 Sep 01 | Americas
The trail to Bin Laden
03 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
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