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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 19:09 GMT
Pakistan 'ready for talks' with India
Pakistani positions
Both sides have been moving troops to the border
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says he is ready to meet Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as fears grow of a war between the two countries.

The Indian Government is putting itself into a corner where it would be difficult for them to now back off

Pakistani spokesman Rashid Qureshi
Mr Vajpayee "must show willingness on his side and there will be willingness on our side," General Musharraf said in Islamabad.

Pakistani security officials earlier told the BBC they believe that 95% of the Indian air force is now in an offensive position - in addition to the existing heavy deployment of troops along the border.

Tensions between the two neighbours have been building since a suicide attack on the Indian parliament two weeks ago, which Delhi alleges was backed by the Pakistani intelligence service.

'One-hand clap'

General Musharraf said he would be prepared to hold talks with the Indian prime minister at a regional summit in Nepal next week.

But he warned that both sides had to be looking for a way out of the dispute.

"You can't clap with one hand," he told reporters.

So far, Indian sources have ruled out any likelihood of a meeting between the two men.

Pakistani officials say the Indian deployment is even bigger than that witnessed during a brief conflict with militants in the Kargil sector of the disputed territory of Kashmir two years ago.

Pakistan's military spokesman, General Rashid Qureshi, said the nature of the Indian deployment suggested a desire for offensive action, and that India would find it difficult to back down.

Villagers in Kashmir continue to leave their homes in search of safety.

'Air strike' claim

The last few days have seen growing tension between the two nuclear powers over allegations of wide scale troop deployments on their common border.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas says Pakistani officials claim to have picked up indications of a possible Indian air strike on the night of 21 December, though this has not been independently verified.

The officials said they passed on a warning about the situation to the US.

Indian fighter
Pakistan claims India is ready to strike
Washington has been trying to defuse tensions between the two nuclear rivals.

President Bush said on Friday he was "pleased that President Musharraf is responding to the Indian request to round up those who would do harm to others and incarcerate them".

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he was "deeply concerned" about the situation and called on both countries to work together to resolve their differences.

And the G-8 group of industrial nations has voiced "serious concern" about the situation.

In a statement issued in Moscow, they also urge Pakistan to do more against "terrorist groups... which target India in particular".

Punitive measures

The two countries have announced a number of sanctions against each other.

Despite that, India says it will allow Pakistani President Musharraf to fly through Indian airspace to attend the Nepal summit.

Mutual sanctions
Bans on national airlines flying over each others' airspace
Diplomatic missions slashed by half
Movements of diplomats confined to capital cities

The Indian sanctions were aimed at forcing Pakistan to take action against two Kashmir militant groups, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, which India blamed for a suicide attack on its parliament two weeks ago.

Asked whether he was prepared to move against the two groups, Mr Musharraf said: "We understand our responsibility. We know what we have to do."

Pakistan has already frozen the groups' assets and arrested the founder of the Jaish group, but Delhi is demanding that they be shut down for good.

India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh has described the Pakistani actions as "cosmetic measures and non-measures".

The BBC's Brian Hanrahan
"Pakistan... believes India is prepared for a major offensive"
Nirupama Rao, Indian Foreign Ministry
"They are not addressing the issue seriously"
Anwar Mahmood, Pakistan's Information Secretary
says the standoff could end if India would agree to a third party inquiry
See also:

28 Dec 01 | Monitoring
Press urges calm as tensions rise
27 Dec 01 | South Asia
India and Pakistan crisis deepens
28 Dec 01 | South Asia
India-Pakistan buses close down
26 Dec 01 | South Asia
US adds pressure on Pakistan
24 Dec 01 | South Asia
Pakistan freezes militant funds
18 Dec 01 | South Asia
India facing tough choices
28 Dec 01 | UK Politics
UK urges Pakistan action on terror
28 Dec 01 | South Asia
Pakistanis 'could be stuck in India'
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