Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee yesterday told Indian soldiers confronting Pakistani forces across their border in disputed Kashmir that the time had come for a decisive fight.
Although he did not spell out who the fight would be against, he said his visit to front-line troops at a time of high tension between the nuclear-armed foes should be seen as a signal. "Whether our neighbour understands this signal or not, whether the world takes account of it or not, history will be witness to this," he told soldiers in Kupwara, northern Kashmir. "We shall write a new chapter of victory.
"Let's work for victory. Be prepared for sacrifices. But our aim should be victory. Because it's now time for a decisive fight."
As Vajpayee continued his tour of Kashmir, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was due to meet his cabinet and top security officials in Islamabad.
The two sides have exchanged heavy mortar and machine-gun fire across their border since Friday, forcing hundreds of villagers to move to safety.
Officials have reported 10 deaths in the past two days, including a girl who Pakistani police said was killed by Indian gunners yesterday. Each side blames the other for starting the firing.
The rival neighbours have massed up to a million troops - backed by fighter jets, missiles and tanks - on their border since India blamed Pakistan-based Kashmiri militants for a suicide raid on India's national parliament in December.
Tension rose sharply last week when Muslim rebels battling Indian rule in Kashmir raided an army camp, killing more than 30 people, many of them soldiers' wives and children.
The crisis has hit financial markets in both countries, with India's key 30-issue Mumbai share index - which fell to its lowest close this year on Tuesday on war fears - extending falls yesterday by shedding about 1 per cent.
Pakistan stocks slid more than 4 per cent.
(China Daily May 23, 2002)