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Situation With Pakistan 'Warlike' Says India's Army Chief - 2002-01-11

India's army chief says his forces are fully prepared for war, calling the situation along the India-Pakistan border "serious." India's army chief also said Friday that while his country has a strict no-first-use policy with regard to nuclear weapons India will retaliate with nuclear weapons if Pakistan uses them against India.

With hundreds of thousands of troops massed on the India-Pakistan border, India's Army chief General Sunderajan Padmanabhan said he believes "a warlike situation" is developing with Pakistan. "When two countries mobilize their forces and place them on the borders the situation is not normal," he said. "The situation can yes, be comfortably described as serious."

General Padmanabhan's comments came Friday at a news conference in New Delhi. India says Pakistan-supported Kashmir separatists carried out the December 13 attack on its parliament, and says Islamabad must end what it calls "cross-border terrorism" in Kashmir. India's army chief said Pakistan has not done enough to control the activities of the so-called "jehadi's" as the militant separatists are sometimes referred to. "Now I am afraid there has been no great diminution of the activities of the 'jehadi's,'" the general said. "I think a lot more will have to be done in terms of restraining them in their home country than what has been done already."

Pakistan has long objected to India's claims that it sponsors the activities of militant separatists fighting in India's state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the December 13 attack on India's parliament Pakistan has arrested scores of such militants, including the leaders of the two groups that India blames for the attack.

Indian officials have praised the crackdown, but say Pakistani officials need to de-escalate violence in Kashmir and hand over about 20 Indian nationals living in Pakistan who are accused of terrorist and criminal activities something Pakistani officials say they cannot do unless India provides evidence.

In his news conference on Friday, India's army chief said his forces are fully prepared to fight a conventional war with Pakistan if the need arises. He said India could attack what he calls terrorist camps in Pakistani territory, but he said any decision to go to war with Pakistan would be dictated by India's government, saying he believes war would not break out as the result of an accidental incident along the border.

Both India and Pakistan are believed to possess nuclear weapons. General Padmanabhan said India would not initiate the use of nuclear weapons, but if Pakistan ever attacks India with nuclear weapons India will mount a counter-strike. "Should any nuclear weapon be used against India, Indian forces, Indian assets at sea, India's economic human or other targets, the perpetrator of that particular outrage shall be punished be punished so severely, that their continuation thereafter in any form of fray [fight] will be doubtful," the general said.

At the same time General Padmanabhan said nuclear weapons are not meant for fighting and it would be foolish to ever think of using nuclear weapons in a battlefield campaign. He also says the use of nuclear weapons would be disastrous for both countries - as well as for all of the other nations in South Asia.