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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 17:46 GMT
Press urges calm as tensions rise
Indian Army soldiers patrol Poonch sector near Indo-Pakistan border
Both sides say the other is massing troops at their mutual border
Many leading newspapers in India and Pakistan have called for their governments to show restraint as tension increases in the wake of the terror attack on the Indian parliament.

Some commentaries and editorials have been surprisingly conciliatory, considering the long history of antipathy between the two countries.

A climate of conciliation must replace the atmosphere of confrontation

The Kashmir Times

Writing from the troubled region at the heart of the tension between Delhi and Islamabad, The Kashmir Times praises Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf.

Praise for Musharraf

"War is not the answer. India's concern over Pakistan backing of the terrorist groups striking in this country is not unjustified. Happily Pakistan of late has shown equal concern over terrorism and fundamentalism.

"General Musharraf has not only moved in the right direction to meet their challenge but has also been adopting a flexible attitude in resolving the disputes including that of Jammu and Kashmir that divide the two countries.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and wife Sehba at Taj Mahal prior to Agra summit July 2001
Only a few months ago Pakistan and India were prepared to talk

"While expecting him to take firm action in reining in the terrorists, New Delhi must positively respond by reopening the channels of dialogue with Islamabad. A climate of conciliation must replace the atmosphere of confrontation," The Kashmir Times urged.

The Hindustan Times called on both countries to tackle the problem of regional terrorism jointly.

Joint action

"It's the US government's responsibility to compel General Musharraf to shift his priorities. India, too, will have to act resolutely and smash all manifestations of these groups on this side of the border."


"For peace to prevail in South Asia, India must avoid using the clichés it has used in the past, and Pakistan must also rise above clichéd responses

Husain Haqqani in The Nation
It spoke of reaching a "point of convergence from where the governments of India and Pakistan can be realistically expected to 'act together' in the war against terror - as 'recommended' by Washington".

Some Pakistani commentators are also keen to project a balanced perspective on the issue.

Writing in The Nation, Husain Haqqani urged both countries to put antagonism behind them.

"For peace to prevail in South Asia, India must avoid using the clichés it has used in the past, and Pakistan must also rise above clichéd responses. In other words, both countries must break their patterns."

He said Washington should persuade India "to get serious about resolving the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. India's leadership appears to be creating war hysteria, mainly to take attention away from the Kashmir issue.


The stock market will come crashing down, foreign investors will stay away and both India and Pakistan will sink further into poverty and squalor

Dr Tariq Rahman in The News
"Pakistan, on the other hand, must transcend the 'conspiracy theory' mindset that blames everything on some sinister 'Hindu-Zionist' plot," Mr Haqqani writes.

Dr Tariq Rahman, writing in Islamabad's The News, makes a similar plea: "For long-term security in South Asia, the leaders of India and Pakistan must stop indulging in hate-filled rhetoric."

Decline and fall

"If India attacks Pakistan now we shall move towards far greater insecurity than we have ever experienced. Every time there is a terrorist attack anywhere we will expect war. This means that the stock market will come crashing down, foreign investors will stay away and both India and Pakistan will sink further into poverty and squalor."

An article in the Karachi-base Dawn acknowledges that Pakistan has played a part in terrorism directed against India and warns of the power of the country's shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

"India should not fall for Pervez Musharraf's diversionary tactics to deflect attention from the hunt for Bin Laden and his cohorts

The Times of India

"An out-of-control ISI poses more of a threat to Pakistan than to India. It would clearly be in New Delhi's interests to engage rather than antagonise the Musharraf administration... A joint strategy against terror would be more likely to bear fruit than making difficult demands or taking unilateral action."

The Indian and Pakistani leaders "are well aware how easy it is to whip up suspicions and hatred", the Dawn article points out. "But it is not all that much harder to inculcate the spirit of peace and goodwill, except that it requires a greater degree of political courage."

Accusations

However, not all the messages are conciliatory. The Times of India says "Pakistan has a stake in raising tensions with India to divert attention from the hunt for Bin Laden".

"India should not fall for Pervez Musharraf's diversionary tactics to deflect attention from the hunt for Bin Laden and his cohorts."


Indian politicians are playing with the lives of over 1.2 billion people just to win elections and to be in power

The Pakistan Observer
New Delhi's The Pioneer argues that "General Musharraf needs something to rally the nation with... Military action by India would provide that. It would give him the necessary provocation to get the Pakistani nation to put aside their differences and come together".

"Immediate military action, such as that demanded by popular Indian sentiment, would only serve to strengthen Pervez Musharraf's hand."

Jammu's Daily Excelsior called Pakistan "another breeder of terrorism, its known exporter and promoter".

An editorial in Islamabad's The Nation says "New Delhi... it seems... is bent upon asserting its dominance. Islamabad must not remain under the illusion that the prospect of mutual widespread destruction could inhibit India from making an aggressive move".

According to the Pakistan Observer: "One aspect of the drama that India has staged recently and its mobilisation of forces is to prepare the ground for the next elections. Ostensibly, the Indians are trying to show that they are tough in dealing with Pakistan to win the Hindu votes.

"It clearly shows the hypocrisy of the Indian politicians who are playing with the lives of over 1.2 billion people just to win elections and to be in power."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

28 Dec 01 | South Asia
Pakistan voices war fears
27 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: India's political calculation
24 Dec 01 | South Asia
Pakistan freezes militant funds
16 Dec 01 | South Asia
India and Pakistan: Troubled relations
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