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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
Eyewitness: Behind Pakistani lines
Pakistani soldiers in Chakoti sector
Opposing troops are less than a mile from each other

The threat of nuclear war is not going away even though foreign diplomats are trying to bring Pakistan and India together.

We have to be prepared for all types of eventuality

Brigadier Iftekar Ali Khan
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is visiting the sub-continent later this week.

Along the border, there are a million men and regular exchanges of artillery fire.

I visited a house in the shadow of the Line of Control (LoC), the dividing line between Pakistani and Indian forces in Kashmir - or rather what's left of it after it was shelled.

House hit by indian mortar in Koi Ratta village
Villages near the LoC are no longer safe
A neighbour says four people died.

Many people have left Chakoti, on the approach to the LoC, after the shelling which has taken place over the past couple of weeks.

We have just heard some shelling in the distance.

Tense frontier

A track snakes upward above us. At the top it disappears.

To the side is a red line. This is held by the Indian forces.

Brigadier Iftekar Ali Khan is the commander of Chakoti sector on the Pakistani side.

Pakistani soldiers in Chakoti sector
Pakistani troops: 'Ready' for anything
We find him in one of their sand-bagged sections, which look directly across to the Indian front line, less than a mile away.

His men scan the skyline for any sign that fighting may break out again.

I asked the brigadier whether he thought India might carry out a military strike across the LoC.

If either side did so, it would be likely to trigger a wider war.

"I think when they have a lot of forces inside the valley and have the position to do that... But we have to be prepared for all types of eventuality," he says.

'Liberation'

We will keep sacrificing our children for the sake of liberation

Khoj Dabad,
Kashmiri refugee
Away from the front lines, a camp on the outskirts of the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, is home to about 150 families.

They mostly came here in the years soon after the armed campaign of separatist militancy began in Indian Kashmir.

The campaign and the Indian security forces' attempts to subdue it have cost at least 30,000 lives.

The refugees insist they have no dealings with the militants but some, like Khoj Dabad, do not hide their support for the cause.

"We will keep sacrificing our children for the sake of liberation and we will send every child to go to war."

'Destabilising'

Passions are more restrained at a seminar in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

Kashmiris flee Hajera village
Many locals end up refugees
But one of the participants, a retired general, says he's never believed the whole of South Asia to be in greater danger.

Talat Massoud argues the only option for Pakistan is to abandon the militancy route, to pursue the Kashmir issue politically.

"At one point of time, when India was extremely intransient to come to the negotiating table, I think they used this as a weapon to bring them to the negotiating table from their frustrations," he says.

"Now I think the world is very different and this is totally unacceptable. And what is more important is that it is very destabilising for Pakistan itself."

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See also:

04 Jun 02 | South Asia
04 Jun 02 | South Asia
03 Jun 02 | South Asia
01 Jun 02 | South Asia
02 Jun 02 | South Asia
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