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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 21:12 GMT 22:12 UK
Foreigners advised to leave India
Foreigners leave Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport
The spectre of nuclear war has alarmed world leaders
Thousands of foreign nationals have been advised to leave India because of the danger that its confrontation with Pakistan over Kashmir may lead to war.

Citizens and some diplomats from the US, Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada have been advised to return home.

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As international efforts to resolve the crisis continue, Pakistan has welcomed the visit next week of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

But exchanges of mortar and artillery fire have been continuing across the Line of Control in the disputed region. Indian security officials said one of their soldiers had been killed.

The US State Department told all non-essential diplomats and their families on Friday that they were free to leave India, saying it could not rule out a worsening of the crisis with Pakistan.

It was a lower level of alert than the "ordered departure" issued for Pakistan in March.

The US is also advising American citizens currently in India to consider leaving.

The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has advised UK citizens in India to consider leaving and offered the families of British diplomats and non-essential staff the chance to return home.

Citizens' advice
US and Britain: Citizens, non-essential diplomats and families to consider leaving India
Germany: Citizens advised to leave India. Diplomats to stay
Denmark: Citizens asked not to travel to India or Pakistan
Canada and Australia: Non-essential diplomats being withdrawn from India and Pakistan. Citizens advised to leave
New Zealand: Families of diplomats in India being withdrawn

Australia said it was withdrawing non-essential diplomatic staff from Delhi and Islamabad, while New Zealand said it was pulling out all relatives of its diplomatic staff in the Indian capital.

Canada has ordered all "non-essential diplomats" in India and Pakistan to leave immediately and called on all its citizens in the region to leave.

Germany has also advised its citizens living in India to leave. The foreign ministry said the advice applied to families of diplomatic staff but not to staff themselves.

Denmark has asked its citizens not to travel to India or Pakistan.

Britain and other Western countries have already scaled down their operations in Pakistan following attacks, or threats of attacks, by Islamic militants.

Mr Rumsfeld is expected to spell out to India and Pakistan - both nuclear powers - the terrible cost of any conflict for the two countries and the entire region.

Powell statement

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, says he has seen indications that Pakistan has given orders to stop infiltrations across the Line of Control - one of India's key demands.

He told the BBC's Washington correspondent, Jon Leyne, that, if that happened, he would be asking India to withdraw its forces.

In an explicit warning about the dangers of a nuclear exchange, Mr Powell said the whole world would condemn whoever was responsible.

Between nine million and 12 million people would die in a "worst-case" nuclear war between India and Pakistan, a US defence official quoted by the news agency AFP said.

The official, citing a classified Pentagon assessment, said between two million and six million people would be wounded and many more would die from disease, famine and contaminated water supplies.

Pakistani trooper
Rising tension:

1 October 2001:
38 killed in attack on the Kashmir assembly in Srinagar
13 December 2001:
14 killed in attack on the Indian parliament building in Delhi
14 May 2002:
More than 30 killed in attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir
21 May 2002:
Moderate Kashmiri politician Abdul Ghani Lhone shot dead

The President of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Saddar Mohamed Anwar, has said the authorities are doing their utmost to avoid a conflict with India, but again warned that they would retaliate if attacked.

Mr Anwar, speaking in the town of Hajeera where civilians have been killed in shelling, said: "We are suffering. But we are still trying to exercise restraint, because we do not want this region to be plunged into war."

Authorities in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir say they will close all educational institutions from Saturday due to heavy shelling by Indian troops.

Pakistan is considering moving more troops to the region, possibly from the Afghan border where they are playing a vital role in the allies' hunt for al-Qaeda fighters.

The threat of withdrawing troops from the Afghan border is seen as a major bargaining chip for the US to put pressure on India.

The BBC's Nick Hawton
"The situation could rapidly get out of hand"
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"We advise people not to travel to India"
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See also:

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