November 22, 2002

India Builds up Forces as Bush Urges Calm

With India rushing troops to the border of Pakistan, US President Bush called the leaders of both nations on Saturday to try to avert a war. According to the White House, he urged Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the military leader of Pakistan, to do more to rein in terrorists.

In New Delhi, India's prime minister strongly suggested that India was prepared for war if diplomacy failed.

Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman, said Mr. Bush, in a call made from his ranch in Crawford, Tex., urged General Musharraf to "take additional strong and decisive measures to eliminate the extremists who seek to harm India, undermine Pakistan, provoke a war."

In his call to the Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mr. Bush pledged to work with India against terrorism, Mr. McClellan said. And he called the recent deadly attack against the Indian Parliament "a strike against democracy."

The president also called the British prime minister, Tony Blair, to discuss developments in South Asia. Mr. Blair plans to visit the region within days.

India has accused Pakistan of complicity in an attack by five gunmen on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi on Dec. 13. Fourteen people, including the attackers, died in the assault.

Officials with Pakistan's military intelligence agency gave figures on Saturday, showing that India had moved 23 more army divisions with at least 150,000 additional combat troops into what Pakistan described as strike positions along the border in recent days, bringing estimate of India's border force to about one million. Pakistan also said that India had deployed 600 combat aircraft.

"The situation is growing dangerously tense," Pakistan's foreign minister, Abdul Sattar, said at a news conference in Islamabad. "India has massed its forces close to the borders with Pakistan and the Line of Control in Kashmir. This massive Indian military buildup gravely threatens peace in South Asia."

Mr. Sattar appealed to the United States, Britain and other nations to put pressure on India to avoid a conflict, and he warned that there was a grave risk of war breaking out inadvertently, given the intensity of the border confrontation.

The military intelligence officers added what amounted to a warning to the United States. Unless Washington can persuade India to reverse its buildup quickly, they said, Pakistan will be forced to augment its own reinforcements on the border by recalling troops from its western border with Afghanistan, where they are hunting for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda terrorists.

On Friday, Mr. Bush confirmed reports that Pakistan had arrested 50 "extremists or terrorists" linked to the two groups accused by India in the attack on Parliament. Mr. Bush praised General Musharraf for "responding forcefully and actively to bring those who would harm others to justice."

But on Saturday, Mr. Vajpayee spoke out defiantly against what he called Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism against India. In effect, he brushed off President Bush's request that India give Pakistan credit for ordering the arrests of individuals linked to the two Islamic militant groups accused in the attacks, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"Our objective is to put an end to Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country," Mr. Vajpayee said at a convention of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

A spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Office said Saturday that the arrests had been made under the Maintenance of Public Order law, which allows the government to arrest anyone without a specific charge.

A spokeswoman for India's Ministry of External Affairs said Saturday that Pakistan had provided India with neither confirmation that the arrests had been made nor with any specific information about who had been detained and on what charges. "Obviously we need more information," said Nirupama Rao, the spokeswoman. "We'll have to assess it independently and only then react."

It seemed unlikely that India would be satisfied with arrests on vague charges. "They should be rounded up on charges of terrorism," Mrs. Rao said.

Since the Dec. 13 attack on its Parliament, India has undertaken the largest mobilization of its army since it last went to war with Pakistan 30 years ago. It has requisitioned trains to station large numbers of troops along the full length of its 1,800-mile-long border with Pakistan and positioned missiles, tanks and jet fighters close to it as well. More than a dozen Indian soldiers laying land mines along the border were killed Friday night in an explosion that a military spokesman said was an accident.

Senior military intelligence officers in Islamabad described India's military buildup as the largest ever along Pakistan's border.

They gave figures suggesting that India's reinforcements of infantry and armored divisions, as well as fighters and bombers, were several times greater than the deployments made by New Delhi the last time the two nations came close to full-scale war. That was two summers ago, when Pakistani troops and militia seized Himalayan heights in the Kargil area of Indian-ruled Kashmir.

The officers said that a naval task force consisting of India's only aircraft carrier, the Vikrant, six other ships and two submarines had moved toward Pakistani waters in the Arabian Sea, placing Indian naval aircraft within easy striking distance of Karachi.

They said a larger naval buildup appeared to have been deterred by the presence farther west in the Arabian Sea of American naval forces taking part in military operations in Afghanistan.

The most threatening ground deployments, for Pakistan, appeared to be in the southern desert, where India's Rajasthan and Gujarat provinces abut the southern half of Pakistan's Punjab Province and Sindh.

The Pakistani officers said that in the two weeks since Dec. 16, three days after the attack on the Parliament, the three divisions of troops that India normally maintains in the southern sector had been augmented by seven more divisions.

They said the Indian units were now in "offensive" positions and included three armored divisions, five infantry divisions, two divisions of mechanized infantry, two additional armored brigades and one additional mechanized infantry brigade.

India has followed a similar pattern with air deployments, the officers said, with the new concentrations mainly along Pakistan's frontier in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and in the southern desert areas, again threatening Karachi and other major cities in Pakistan's cotton belt.

In the north, the officers said, India has deployed 146 additional combat aircraft. In the south, they said, the buildup involves 235 more planes.

(China Daily December 30, 2001)

In This Series
Pakistan Says a Policy of "Utmost Restraint" Continues in Face of Threat

India, Pakistan Trade Sanctions, Both say Ready for war

Annan Calls on India, Pakistan to Avoid Escalation of Tension

India Says its Missiles are 'in Position'

India, Pakistan Border Tensions Rise



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