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Pakistan Urges Pressure on India Over Kashmir - 2002-05-20

Pakistan has urged the international community to put pressure on India to de-escalate military tensions over the disputed region of Kashmir. There have been more casualties in the region, during fresh clashes between the two countries.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan says Pakistan does not want war with India and wants to settle bilateral disputes through talks. Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, the spokesman said Pakistani forces are prepared to counter "any Indian aggression". But he expressed hope that the international community will increase its efforts to move India away from a conflict.

"We have called for reduction in tension and dialogue. The international community is supporting our stand-point, and we hope that ultimately India will see reason and would come down to the negotiating table," he said. "Because resolutions of problems can only take place through negotiations and there are no other means by which problems can be resolved except through talks."

India expelled Pakistan's ambassador to India on Saturday, and has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to stop infiltration by Islamic militants into Indian Kashmir.

Tensions between the two countries have been running high since December when suspected Islamic militants carried out an attack on the Indian parliament. Indian leaders held Pakistan responsible. Last week's deadly attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir, which killed 34 people, has heightened the tensions.

Pakistani spokesman Khan has again denied his country's involvement. He says Pakistan is not allowing militants to cross into the Indian territory.

"As far as verification of our claim is concerned, we are ready for the deployment of independent international observers on both sides of the Line of Control (the cease-fire line in Kashmir) to see for themselves that there is not cross-border activity," he said.

Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. Leaders in India have called for limited strikes against alleged terrorist training camps in the Pakistani part of Kashmir.

A senior Pakistani Kashmir leader, Sardar Abdul Qayyum, says that any such action by India could spark a wider conflict. He says the international community must act now to defuse the tension.

"If it is not called off in time, it may trigger off a war, which perhaps would not remain limited as some people have been suggesting," he said. "And an unlimited war could include nuclear strike, which will destroy the whole region. It's going to be a big catastrophe. It's not going to be like the previous wars fought on the subcontinent."

The United States has urged both India and Pakistan to defuse tensions. American officials are also said to be increasingly worried that an armed conflict between the two could spiral into a full-scale war.