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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Pakistan 'shifts men from al-Qaeda hunt'
Indian troops on border with Pakistan
India already has a powerful presence on the border
There are conflicting reports about a redeployment of troops by Pakistan from the Afghan border in the west to its frontiers with India.

President Pervez Musharraf said the move - in response to rising tensions over Kashmir - was so far only being considered.

I have seen at least 30 trucks from the Pakistan army taking hundreds of troops to eastern Punjab province from the tribal areas of Waziristan

Iqbal Khan
But other officials said troops were on the move and witnesses near the Afghan border said they had already seen trucks heading east.

The troops have been helping United States forces in their search for al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters.

Rashid Qureshi, General Musharraf's chief spokesman, said the movements would not affect Pakistan's relations with the US-led coalition and Islamabad would continue to give the "best possible support".

"The task of sealing the western border still continues to be done," he told AFP.

"Some extra troops have been moved to the eastern border."

However the US earlier expressed concern about reports of plans for the redeployment, saying it could hurt the effort to stop Taleban and al-Qaida fighters moving in and out of Afghanistan.

Enlarge image Enlarge map

Correspondents say that without the troops' presence the coalition has little chance of complete success against al-Qaeda, many of whose leaders are thought to be hiding in Pakistan's tribal regions.

Witnesses in Pakistan's northwest frontier region said they had seen scores of army trucks moving troops.

Iqbal Khan, a storekeeper on the road near Miran Shah - a town on the Afghan border - told The Associated Press he had seen trucks moving towards Punjab from the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan.

An Indian army spokesman, meanwhile, said he was in "full knowledge" of the troop movement and "in complete control of the situation".

Sruti Kant told the AFP news agency that the troops were moving to areas bordering the Indian states of Punjab and Rajasthan.

Border build-up

The news came as three Indian policemen and two suspected Islamic militants were killed in an attack on a police base in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Pakistani troops at the border
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

  • Tension has been increasing since two weeks ago, when three men India says were Pakistani-based Islamic militants attacked an army camp in Kashmir killing 31 soldiers and their families.

    Since that attack, India and Pakistan have amassed a million men between them along their border, backed by missile batteries, tanks and fighter planes.

    The continuing build-up follows a speech to Pakistani troops on Wednesday, in which General Musharraf said he would counter-attack if India started a conflict.

    "The defence forces of the country are fully prepared... in case of any aggression from across the borders," General Musharraf told soldiers at an Pakistani air force base.

    If war was thrust upon Pakistan, it would also be fought in the enemy's territory, he added.

    "Any incursion by the Indian forces across the Line of Control even by an inch, will unleash a storm that will sweep the enemy," he said.


    General Musharraf's remarks came amid international pressure to ease tensions.

    US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Indian and Pakistani leaders could find themselves in a situation in which "irresponsible elements" could spark a conflict.

    Mr Boucher warned that a conflict might start against the wishes of the national leaders in the two countries, and General Musharraf should take tougher measures against terrorists.

    A similar warning was sounded by British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw who ended his mission to the two countries by saying that Britain stood firmly behind India in its fight against terrorism - including cross-border terrorism.

    The BBC's Adam Mynott
    "India are clearly going to react badly to this"
    Centre for Defence Studies Alexander Evans
    "Many militants do not use the line of control to come across anymore"
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    See also:

    30 May 02 | South Asia
    14 Dec 01 | South Asia
    29 May 02 | South Asia
    28 May 02 | UK Politics
    29 May 02 | South Asia
    28 May 02 | South Asia
    27 May 02 | South Asia
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