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Pakistan-India tensions ratchet up at heated Kashmir border

ISLAMABAD, October 20 (Internews): Military tensions in South Asia have
ratcheted upward as Pakistan accuses India of making threatening troop
movements near the border between the two arch-adversaries.
The Indian Army says it is only carrying out routine movements in the
disputed region of Kashmir, but Pakistan has ordered its own army and
air force to a state of high alert, vowing to meet force with force.
"Pakistan forces are fully alive to the situation and on a high state of
alert, ready to thwart any hint of misadventure by the Indian side," a
military official said here Saturday.
The sabre-rattling by the world's newest nuclear powers, occurring
against the backdrop of an intensifying US-led war against Afghanistan,
came as soon as US Secretary of State Colin Powell left the region after
a diplomatic mission to Pakistan and India in which one of his constant
refrains was a plea that both countries seek peace.
Analysts say the events in the region are slowly being overshadowed by
the possibility of hostilities exploding on the Pakistan-India border,
raising the spectre of a nuclear showdown between the two countries over
the pristine mountain realm of Kashmir.
Since their creation in the partition of British India in 1947, the two
countries have fought wars and skirmishes over the Himalayan region,
claimed by Pakistan but largely controlled by India.
Pakistan supports Islamic rebels fighting a bloody campaign to oust
Indian forces while India accuses Pakistan of abetting terrorist strikes
in the territory. The death toll during the past decade alone is thought
to exceed 30,000, although the conflict rarely makes headlines in the
West.
The new confrontationist posturing and strident rhetoric seem to make a
mockery of Powell's diplomatic mission to Pakistan and India, during
which he urged the always-angry and mistrustful neighbours to make
peace.
"The issue of Kashmir is one that has to be resolved between India and
Pakistan," Powell said in New Delhi shortly before departing for China -
and before the high alert order from Pakistan brought regional tensions
to a hair-trigger edge.
"The United States is a friend of both of those nations. And to the
extent that both nations can find our efforts to be helpful in some way
or the other, we would like to be helpful."
According to Pakistani analysts, India's moves reflect New Delhi's
desire to undercut the warming ties between Pakistan and the US, the
result of Pakistan's strong support for the war aimed at toppling
Afghanistan's Taliban regime and rooting Osama bin Laden and other
terrorists from lairs inside the country.
"Every time there is forward diplomatic movement in the region, India
resorts to cross-border attacks to raise tensions and subvert trust,"
said Pervez Iqbal Cheema, the head of the Islamabad Policy Research
Institute. "It is mischief that could bring shells and rockets roaring
on both sides." -Internews

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