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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
India 'puts off' Kashmir attack
Indian soldier in Kashmir
India and Pakistan both say they are ready to fight
India is reported to be planning to give Pakistan two months to stop cross-border attacks in Kashmir before military action is taken.

The influential Hindustan Times newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, said the plan was discussed at a meeting attended by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee during his visit to Kashmir on Thursday.

AB Vajpayee speaking in Srinagar
Vajpayee: "Disappointed" with Pakistan
An Indian Government spokesman contacted by the BBC said the report was "speculative".

But analysts say the departure of Mr Vajpayee for a weekend break appears to confirm that there will be no immediate military operation.

Financial markets in South Asia, which have fallen repeatedly this week, surged back.

Both sides have been reinforcing their troops on the border area, and international pressure has been mounting on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to rein in Muslim militants operating from Pakistani soil.

Grace period

Without directly denying the Hindustan Times report, Indian defence spokesman, P. K. Bandopadhyay, told the BBC that all decisions taken at the prime minister's meeting with military commanders in Kashmir had already been made public.

However, the BBC's Gill McGivering says the timing of the reported Indian move is crucial.

Elections are due to be held in Kashmir in a few months' time.

India wants reassurances that Pakistani militant groups will not try to destabilise that process either by putting pressure on indigenous groups not to take part or by increasing violence.

Click here for strategic balance between India and Pakistan

Our correspondent says some analysts also suggest a two-month grace period could also buy India valuable time.

Although large numbers of troops have been deployed along the border since January, the military needs more time to get ready for any large-scale conflict.

Troop movements

Pakistan, for its part, is considering moving troops from its Afghan border to strengthen its frontier with India.

Islamabad is also said to be recalling its 4,000 peace-keeping troops from Sierra Leone.

About one million troops are estimated to be on either side of the India-Pakistan border.

India began the initial build-up after it said Pakistan had supported a bloody attack on the federal parliament in Delhi last December.

Diplomatic pressure

In the latest diplomatic effort, European Union Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten is visiting the Indian capital Delhi .

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged the General Musharraf to take vigorous action to defuse the tension.

US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker has also called on Pakistan to do all it can to end "infiltration into Kashmir".

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is due in the region next week and the United States has announced that Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage will visit next month.


Kashmir conflict:
  • 1947 - India and Pakistan fight first war over disputed region
  • 1965 - India blames Pakistan for insurgency, war breaks out again
  • 1989 - Insurgency starts in Indian-administered Kashmir
  • 1999 - Heavy clashes around Kargil in Indian-administered Kashmir


  • Pakistan's Interior Minister, General Moin-ud-Haider, told the BBC that Islamabad was doing its best to control extremism, and the infiltration in Kashmir by Islamic militants was decreasing.

    In a speech on 12 January, President Musharraf promised that any group carrying out terrorism "on the pretext of Kashmir" would be strongly dealt with.

    India maintains that recent high-profile attacks prove the Pakistani leader has not been keeping his word. The latest was 10 days ago when a suicide attack on an Indian army camp at Kaluchak left more than 30 people dead.

    Prime Minister Vajpayee has ruled out any talks with Pakistan.

    Mr Vajpayee declined to comment on Thursday when asked if a nuclear war was imminent, but said his troops were preparing for a "decisive victory".

    Four people were killed in Pakistan by cross-border firing on Thursday, according to Pakistani officials, taking the total in the past week to 20.



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     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Jill McGivering
    "The timing is crucial"
    Indian ambassador to the UN, V K Nambiar
    "One can hope that what has been stated is matched by action"
    Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
    "We don't want war"
    Click here fror background reports and analysis

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    See also:

    23 May 02 | Media reports
    23 May 02 | Business
    23 May 02 | South Asia
    23 May 02 | South Asia
    23 May 02 | South Asia
    22 May 02 | South Asia
    23 May 02 | South Asia
    18 May 02 | South Asia
    22 May 02 | UK Politics
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