India's prime minister meets his security advisers in disputed Kashmir on Thursday after telling troops confronting Pakistani forces to prepare for action after a week of cross-border firing.
Atal Behari Vajpayee, on a three-day visit to the state at the root of two of the three wars between the South Asian neighbors, has sent extra troops to India's border with Pakistan and extra warships to the Arabian Sea off its coast.
With the nuclear-armed nations trading bellicose warnings and cross-border fire, the United States and its European allies said they were working behind the scenes to stop the two sides slipping back into war.
"The message clearly to everyone is that it is a dangerous situation and that our hope and all of our efforts are aimed at encouraging them to lessen the tension along the border, both in Kashmir and elsewhere," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.
Rumsfeld said he had spoken to Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes and expected to talk to him again soon.
State Department officials echoed Rumsfeld's concern.
"What we want to do right now is prevent a war," one senior official told reporters.
India blames Pakistan for attacks by Islamic militants in Kashmir, its only Muslim-majority state, and further afield. A December attack on the Indian parliament in the capital New Delhi triggered the latest military standoff between the rivals.
Vajpayee, who meets his security advisers in Indian-controlled Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, told his troops on Wednesday to prepare for action.
"Be prepared for sacrifices. But our aim should be victory. Because it's now time for a decisive fight," Vajpayee said in a speech broadcast live across the nation by state television.
Pakistan responded by warning India against any military "misadventure" and vowing to use "full force" if attacked.
Both Vajpayee and Pakistani military leader General Pervez Musharraf are under considerable domestic pressure to appear tough in dealing with their old rival but it is unclear how close the two countries really are to war.
The crisis has launched a diplomatic flurry. European Union External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten will be followed by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw early next week and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in early June.
(China Daily May 24, 2002)