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India Pressures Pakistan to Crack Down on Militants - 2001-12-19

India's prime minister says he is not looking to start a war with Pakistan but that "all options remain open" as he decides how to respond to last week's suicide attack on parliament. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has blamed Pakistani-based militant groups for the attack, raising tensions with its neighbor.

Prime Minister Vajpayee says India is using diplomacy to put pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Muslim militant groups, which he says carried out the attack on parliament.

But he told lawmakers all options remain open and the decision will be made in the national interest without what he calls "haste and emotion."

Following the attack, there have been calls for military strikes against what New Delhi says are terrorist training camps in Pakistani Kashmir.

Prime Minister Vajpayee says the question to be debated is not whether there should be a war or not, but the circumstances which could lead to a war. He says India wants peace, but must take care of its security interests.

Referring to calls for caution from American leaders, he says advice for restraint should be directed to Pakistan, which India accuses of sponsoring terrorist activities in India, including the suicide attack on parliament. Pakistani officials deny the allegation.

Opposition parties say they will back the government in whatever action it decides to take to respond to terrorist activities. But they have advised caution and say a military option should only be considered as a last resort. Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi stressed the need for a diplomatic consensus.

"We should certainly be able to embark on a concerted diplomatic offensive and garner the full support of the international community for our nation's just cause," she said.

Meanwhile Indian army officials say there has been heavy exchange of gunfire and mortar shelling along the Kashmir border between Indian and Pakistani troops.

India's army chief, S. Padmanabhan, says Pakistan has built up a troop presence along the Kashmiri border and that India's army has responded in an appropriate manner.

"There is a build-up on the other side," he said. "They have moved certain forces in there, certain forces which should have gone back have not gone back. To that extent we are watching it."

Pakistan has dismissed the reports of a troop build-up. Both armies are on full alert. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947.