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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK

World: South Asia

India expresses grave concern

Mr Vajpayee has sought improved relations with Pakistan

By Daniel Lak in Delhi

India took a few hours to react to the events in Pakistan, caught as much by surprise as any other country.

Pakistan in crisis
A statement from the Indian prime minister's office said the developments in the neighbouring country were being watched with great concern.

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was said to be watching television to keep up to date.

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Delhi: "In many ways it's India's worst nightmare"
All Indian diplomatic personnel in Islamabad were said to be safe, and the first priority of the new Indian cabinet after its swearing-in on Wednesday will be a meeting of the security committee to discuss the latest situation.

A military takeover at this stage in India-Pakistan relations is about the worst possible development.

Despite the fighting in Kashmir between Indian and Pakistani forces earlier this year, there were high hopes that Mr Vajpayee's re-election would lead to a resumed peace process between the two old enemies.

Troops on high alert

A hardline, military-led government in Islamabad would be reluctant to see any settlement of the Kashmir dispute that fell short of the entire territory joining Pakistan.

Also bad from India's point of view would be a chaotic situation in Pakistan, with armed resistance to the army's move sparking violence on the streets.

The Indian military has apparently put its units on heightened alert as events unfold.

India's new government had hoped to turn its attention quickly to the economy, but it is now going to have its early agenda dominated by a dangerous regional crisis on its very border.

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