India's Prime Minister Plays Down Possibility of War With Pakistan

By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

NEW DELHI, Dec. 23 -- Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tried to allay fears Tuesday about the possibility of war with neighboring Pakistan, saying that "nobody wants war." Singh's comments came amid rising calls in India for military action and a day after Pakistan's air force conducted war-training exercises with fighter jets above that country's major cities.

"The issue is not war. The issue is terror and territory in Pakistan being used to provoke, to aid and abet terrorism. Nobody wants war," Singh told reporters outside Parliament.

He said India wanted Pakistan to "dismantle the terror machine" and added that Islamabad "knows what that implies."

The two nuclear-armed nations have traded angry rhetoric since India accused "elements" in Pakistan of planning the three-day siege in Mumbai last month that left at least 170 people dead, including six Americans, and injured more than 230. The gunmen arrived by boat and attacked a restaurant, two luxury hotels, a train station, a Jewish outreach center and other sites.

India has accused the banned Pakistan-based group Lashkar-i-Taiba and demanded that Islamabad snuff out groups that fuel terrorism in India. Pakistan, although denying any government role in the attack, has offered to help in a joint probe and has detained some suspects. But India has deemed the steps cosmetic and has demanded more effective action.

India's foreign minister has said on two occasions that the government was keeping all its options open, implying the possibility of military action.

Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, reacting to the tough talk by India, told the Pakistani daily the News on Tuesday that the country's armed forces are "fully prepared to meet any eventuality, as the men are ready to sacrifice for their country." Kiyani said Pakistan would react "within minutes" of any military strike by India.

During a visit to Islamabad, Interpol chief Ronald Noble said Tuesday that Pakistan has agreed to cooperate with the global police force to find the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. However, he said India had not shared information about the gunmen with Interpol.

"To date, India's government has not authorized Indian police agencies to enter any data related to the Mumbai attacks into Interpol's database," he said at a news conference in Pakistan. The "Indian government had decided it is not yet ready to engage with the Interpol," he added.

Pakistan's top Interior Ministry official, Rehman Malik, told reporters that Islamabad has received no evidence from Indian authorities about the purported involvement of Pakistani nationals in the Mumbai attacks. Police in Indian-administered Kashmir said Tuesday that they had arrested three men of Pakistani origin over the weekend. Police said the men had been planning to drive an explosives-laden vehicle into a building in India.

Kuldeep Khoda, director general of police in Kashmir, said the men had been asked "to launch action in our state" and "create disturbances."

"Their personal search also revealed certain incriminating documents and some suspicious identity cards," he said. One of the men was a Pakistani soldier, he said.

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