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Pakistan Accuses India of Building Offensive Force on Border - 2001-12-28

Pakistan is accusing India of an offensive troop build up along their common border, increasing fears of war between the two rival nations.

A Pakistani government spokesman, Major General Rashid Qureshi, told reporters Friday that India's continuing military buildup shows New Delhi is seeking offensive capability on the border. "A certain momentum is established by the deployment of forces close to the border. It seems that Indian government is putting itself in corner, where I think it's going to be difficult for them now to back off," he said. "So therefore, each step that they take or they have been taking is an increasing threat to Pakistan."

General Qureshi said Pakistani troops are ready to retaliate if India attacks Pakistan. But he says his country is exercising maximum restraint and has deployed only defensive forces along the border. However, the spokesman says there has been no serious clashes between Pakistani and Indian forces at the border in more than a day.

Tensions have grown in the region, after India accused Pakistan of sponsoring a terror attack on its parliament in New Delhi early this month. The attack has prompted the biggest military build up in 15 years and an increasingly bitter war of words between India and Pakistan sparking fears of military conflict.

"We hope that better sense will prevail," said Aziz Ahmad Khan, a spokesman for the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, "and we will continue to strive for negotiated settlements of all outstanding issues of all problems between India and Pakistan. We would strive for peace but at the same time if measures are taken, we would be constrained to take reciprocal actions."

The international community led by the United States has stepped up diplomatic efforts to defuse the tension.

India says the attack on its parliament was carried out by Pakistan-based Muslim militants, fighting Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Islamabad denies that it was involved in the attack and has promised to punish anyone responsible for the attack - but not without proof.

India and Pakistan both have imposed a range of political and economic sanctions on each other. They have barred each other's airliners from their airspace beginning next month, and have ordered half of each other's diplomatic staff to go home.

Pakistan's national air carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, says it will cancel 12 flights to India and re-route 13 others because they use Indian airspace. According to Pakistani officials, 111 Indian flights normally overfly Pakistan.