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Pakistan Warns Small Action Could Set Off Conflict With India - 2001-12-29

Pakistan is warning that in the current atmosphere of rising tensions with India, a small action could set off a larger conflict between the two countries. The two nations have massed troops along their common borders, in the largest such buildup in 15-years following an attack on Indian parliament early this month.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar says his country's dispute with India is growing "dangerously tense". He says Indian army and air force formations have been moved from peacetime locations to operational areas close to the border with Pakistan. In his words, "the massive Indian buildup gravely threatens peace in the region."

"Taking into account past experience and the existence of mistrust between the two countries, the possibility of a small action could trigger a chain of action and reaction leading to conflict that neither side desires, is unfortunately very high," he said. "Pakistan does not seek any war [with India], local or general, conventional or nuclear."

The Pakistani Foreign Minister urged Indian leaders to stop making what he termed "war-like and provocative" statements, saying they are adding to the military tensions.

Mr. Sattar says Pakistan is willing to hold talks with India to calm border tensions, but it will not request a meeting between President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

"We are not requesting such a meeting but that Pakistan will respond positively to any indication of a desire on the other side for such a meeting," he said. "The Indian side has said, in advance, they will not have a meeting. I am sure no responsible person would like Pakistan to make a request that would give India the satisfaction of saying they have rejected it."

Pakistan President General Musharraf said Friday he is willing to meet the Indian prime minister during a regional summit in Nepal next month.

Mr. Sattar says his country cannot ignore "the mounting threat of war" from India and has taken necessary precautions to counter any aggression. But he says the use of nuclear weapons in any conflict should be considered strictly "inconceivable"

"This is a very grave issue and it should not be lightly discussed," Mr. Sattar said. "Nuclear weapons are awful weapons and any use of these weapons should be inconceivable for any state. Of course, these are weapons of defense and deterrence and we hope that the deterrence value of these weapons will be kept in view by anyone who is engaged in adventurism."

Mr. Sattar says that India and Pakistan signed an agreement in the 1990s that outlaws attacks on each other's nuclear installations in the event of a conflict. He says any violation of that agreement would lead to "very serious consequences"

Tensions between the two rival nations have mounted after a suicide attack on the Indian parliament early this month that left 14 people dead, including the five attackers. New Delhi blames the attack on two Pakistan-based militant groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. Islamabad has condemned the attack, saying it will take action against anyone responsible but needs proof the attackers were from Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's government has ordered cable television operators in the country to stop relaying Indian satellite channels. An official statement says Indian TV channels are propagating material that harms the security of Pakistan.