In an attempt to defuse tensions with neighboring India, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf has promised he will crack down on militants suspected of committing acts of violence against India. In a nationally televised speech, Mr. Musharraf has also called on India to begin talks with Pakistan but he warns that any attempt to cross the Pakistani border will be met with "full force."
In a widely anticipated speech, General Musharraf, said he will not permit terrorist activities on Pakistani soil. He outlawed two Pakistan-based separatist Kashmiri groups, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba, which India blames for last month's deadly attack on its parliament. The Pakistani leader says his country's dispute with India over Kashmir should not be used as a pretext by extremists in Pakistan.
"Pakistan rejects and condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," said General Musharraf. "Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world."
The military leader, however, refuses to hand over any Pakistani nationals sought by India in connection with the parliament attack. He says that if the government found evidence against these people it would put them on trial in Pakistan.
India is demanding the extradition of 20 alleged terrorists as a condition of de-escalating tensions. New Delhi has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring an armed insurgency in Indian Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charge, and General Musharraf warns India against attacking Pakistan for that reason. He said Pakistan's armed forces are fully deployed and prepared to face every challenge. He added his country will retaliate with full forces if attacked by India. General Musharraf has reiterated Pakistan's "moral and diplomatic" support for the separatist movement in Kashmir.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high following the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament building. Both countries have deployed forces along their common border, raising fears of a fourth war between the nations.
In his hour-long speech, most of the time General Musharraf condemned Islamic extremism in Pakistan. He says people in his country are "fed up" with religious extremism and want to build a society of mutual respect and tolerance.
The military government led by General Musharraf has been cracking down on sectarian militants since early last year. In his Saturday speech, he also banned two radical groups, Sunni-based Sipah-e-Sahaba and Shiite Tehrik-e-Jafria. The rival groups are blamed for sectarian killings across Pakistan.
General Musharraf also announced moves to curb extremism in thousands of Islamic religious schools or "madrassas" in Pakistan that have long been seen as breeding ground for Islamic militants.