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Pakistan 'feared Indian attack'

Soldiers wait outside the Taj Mahal hotel in the last hours of the assault

Pakistan feared India was planning to launch a military strike at the height of tensions over the Mumbai attacks, a senior Pakistani diplomat has said.

Pakistan's High Commissioner to London said there was evidence that India wanted "to teach Pakistan a lesson".

Islamabad denies involvement in the attacks which left at least 170 dead, but some of the gunmen are said to have had links to Pakistani militants.

Both sides have taken care not to openly inflame the situation.

High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hassan told the BBC World Service's Newshour programme that he had received the information in the wake of the three-day siege of key sites in Mumbai.

"This is what we were told by our friends that there could possibly be a quick strike at some of the areas they suspect to be the training camps, an air raid or something of that sort," he said.

Mr Hassan said he alerted his president, Asif Ali Zardari, to the danger and Pakistan urgently passed on its concerns to high level US and British officials, who intervened to calm the situation.

How would we have reacted? That could be anybody's guess
Wajid Shamsul Hassan
High Commissioner
"There was circumstantial evidence that India was going to make a quick strike against Pakistan to teach her a lesson," he said.

Mr Hassan said that in his opinion it was unlikely the two countries, which both possess nuclear weapons and have fought several wars since partition in 1947, would have ended up in all-out conflict.

"We wouldn't have gone, and I'm sure India wouldn't have gone for full-scale war," he said. "But then, on the other side, how would we have reacted? That could be anybody's guess. We are a smaller country, we have to defend ourselves."

India has so far made no comment on Mr Hassan's comments.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice embarked on a diplomatic mission to ease tensions - flying to Dehli and Islamabad for talks this week.

She also called on both countries to show moderation in their response to the Mumbai attacks.

Analysts say that despite both sides' rhetoric, there has been no concrete signs by either side of heightened military activity, such as troop movements to border areas.

Hoax call denied

In an earlier indication of how strained relations had become during the attacks, the Pakistani Dawn newspaper reported that the country had been put on high alert during the crisis after what the paper called a hoax call was made to President Zardari.

Azam Amir Qasab
India says the surviving gunman, Azam Amir Qasab, is Pakistani

A caller claiming to be Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke to the Pakistani leader in a threatening manner on 28 November, Dawn reported.

The newspaper said Mr Zardari's staff had bypassed usual verification checks for a call to the president.

But Pakistan's Information Minister Sherry Rehman later denied it could have been a hoax.

"It is not possible for any call to come through to the president without multiple caller identity verifications," she said in a statement.

"In fact the identity of this particular call, as evident from the CLI (caller's line identification) device, showed that the call was placed from a verified official Phone Number of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs."

In another development, Indian police have arrested two men in the eastern city of Calcutta suspected of handling mobile phone cards later used by the Mumbai attackers.

Nine of the 10 militants believed to have mounted the attack on 26 November died.

Indian media have named the surviving gunman as Azam Amir Qasab, a Pakistani, and say he has links to a Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. The group denies involvement.

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