Pakistan is likely to foment more guerrilla attacks or provoke India in other ways in coming weeks and months, but it does not desire a broader conventional conflict or nuclear war with its larger, stronger rival, according to military officials and experts in both countries.

Pakistan's military is determined to keep pressure on India over the disputed Kashmir region, where the countries recently fought a small, two-month border conflict in the Kargil region. Pakistani military officers say openly they will seek new "Kargil-like" situations to exploit, as well as other ways to punish India.

But Pakistani and Indian officers agree that Pakistan has no desire to provoke a regional conflagration and little strategic interest in doing so. Militarily, Indian officials and experts say that while Pakistan may well be able to incite guerrilla violence indefinitely and cause trouble along the border, it is no match for India's armed forces and thus would be highly unlikely to risk starting a wider war it would inevitably lose.

Pakistan aims to "confine things to a proxy war on the ground, but it wants to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir for all time," India's director of military intelligence, Lt. Gen. R. K. Sawhney, said. He added that because of the growing influence of radical Islam on Pakistani security forces, "they have a dangerous sense of mission. They are erratic and prone to rash acts, but I don't think they'd go to the extent of using nukes."

Pakistan is predominantly Muslim while India is mostly Hindu. As the two countries celebrate the anniversaries of their independence from Britain this weekend, tensions are high following 10 weeks of fighting that began in May with the Kargil war and included a series of Islamic guerrilla attacks in Kashmir and northeast India. This week, India and Pakistan fired missiles at each other's military aircraft; in one of the incidents, India downed a Pakistani surveillance plane near the border, killing 16.

Indian authorities have stepped up military alerts and taken extra security precautions for Sunday's annual Independence Day rally, which will feature a traditional outdoor speech by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. They said they will use bomb-sniffing dogs and patrol helicopters to prevent possible attacks by Islamic militants or Pakistani agents.

"We are taking precautions. There are tensions . . . there may be some retaliation. But escalation? No. There is no risk that this will go any further," said Indian air force Vice Marshal S. K. Malik.

In Islamabad, meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today praised the Pakistani troops and "freedom fighters" who battled Indian forces in the Kargil sector between May and July. He added that after India's downing of the Pakistani surveillance plane, "the world should realize who aspires for peace and who wants to destroy peace."

As Pakistan celebrated the independence it won from Britain in 1947, military officials bestowed honors on more than 100 soldiers and officers who fought in Kargil. Until now, Pakistan has not acknowledged its troops occupied the remote mountainous zone, insisting they were Kashmiri rebels.

Today's military ceremony in Islamabad appeared to be aimed at appeasing the armed forces, who are reportedly upset that civilian leaders, under U.S. pressure, called off the Kargil operation. Officials said this frustration did not stem from the armed forces' desire to pursue a full-fledged war with India, but from their belief that if they kept fighting, India eventually would have agreed to negotiate on Kashmir rather than risk a nuclear confrontation.

"Backtracking from an advantageous position against the Indian army was a big psychological blow to the troops," said one senior Pakistani officer. He asserted that by fall, had Pakistan's fighters remained entrenched and Indian casualties risen, India would have been "forced to discuss a viable resolution of the Kashmir crisis."

American and United Nations officials have expressed concern that the recent military flare-ups could escalate into a conventional or even nuclear war. India and Pakistan each successfully tested nuclear weapons last year. Washington has called for restraint and a prompt return to negotiations on Kashmir.

But Pakistani military officials insist they want to avoid a larger war and seek only to promote their strategic claim to Kashmir. The scenic, largely Muslim region was divided into Indian and Pakistani sectors in 1948, and both countries have claimed rights to the entire area ever since.

In the past two weeks, there has been a sharp resurgence of guerrilla rocket and bomb attacks against military targets in Kashmir, which India says are orchestrated by Pakistan. Before dawn today, suspected militants attacked an Indian army camp there, killing at least five soldiers and injuring 14 others. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

"There is absolutely no other solution to Kashmir than a military solution," said Maj. Gen. Ahmed Rafiuddin, a former director of Pakistani intelligence. It is "not an emotional issue for Pakistan," but a strategic one, he said. If the world remains unwilling to step in and mediate the conflict, he suggested, only continued violence will call attention to it.

Whatever Pakistan's ambitions, Indian officials and experts say its government is not in a military, diplomatic or economic position to take on India's far larger military forces. It is deeply in debt, and the International Monetary Fund has just delayed releasing its latest loan payment because of the recent aggression. Diplomatically, Pakistan is under heavy foreign pressure to lower tensions with India.

"There is no way there can be a war. Pakistan is smarting under its defeat in Kargil, and it could react in frustration, but if they do anything irrational, they won't get far," said Jasjit Singh, director of the Institute for Strategic and Defense Studies and a retired air force officer. "Pakistan would gain nothing from a full-fledged war, and we have no reason to start one."

Still, after three months of military tensions that have already led to hundreds of deaths, Indian military planners say they are eyeing Pakistan ever more warily and are taking greater precautions against attacks of all kinds.

Constable reported from New Delhi, Khan from Islamabad.



Area: 307,400 square miles

Population: 147 million

GDP, 1997: $65 billion

Economic growth rate, 1998: 5.3%


Total armed forces: 587,000

Defense budget, 1998: $3.2 billion

Air forces: 410 combat aircraft including Mirage-15 IIIEP, Mirage-5, F-16B

Nuclear capability: Tested nuclear device last year and is believed capable of making nuclear warheads


* M-11: Surface-to-surface, range 170 to 190 miles. Pakistan reportedly has 30 of these missiles, supplied by China.

* Haft-3: May be under production; range 370 to 500 miles. Tested in July 1998. Could reach New Delhi.

* Ghauri: Reportedly under development; range 930 miles. One was tested in April 1998.


Area: 1.2 million square miles

Population: 987 million

GDP, 1997: $385 billion

Economic growth rate, 1998: 5.2%


Total armed forces: 1.2 million

Defense budget, 1998: $9.9 billion

Air forces: 772 combat aircraft, including MiG-21, MiG-29, 32 armed helicopters, 5 air command aircraft

Nuclear capability: Tested nuclear device last year and is believed capable of making nuclear warheads


* Prithvi: Surface-to-surface, range 93 miles. The missile, based on the Russian Scud, is under domestic production and could reach Lahore.

* Agni: Surface-to-surface, range 1,250 miles. Latest version, the Agni-II tested in April, has a range of 1,500 miles and could reach Beijing and Shanghai.

SOURCES: Military Balance, World Bank