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Pakistan: War With India Could Affect Anti-Terrorism Efforts - 2002-05-23

Pakistan said the threat of war with India could undermine U.S.-led anti-terrorism efforts in the region. But a military spokesman said his country would never start a war with India.

Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in its war on terrorism. It has deployed thousands of troops on the western borders to capture al-Qaida terrorists fleeing the American hunt in Afghanistan.

But in an interview with VOA, a government spokesman, Major-General Rashid Qureshi said that rising military tensions with India have come to a point, where Pakistan may decide to withdraw its forces from the Afghan border.

"We are here part of the international coalition to fight terrorism. We are doing our best to do it not only on the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also within Pakistan, where there are elements, extremist elements. So we are trying our best to combat this menace. And India is trying to divert our attention to the eastern borders. There is a one million strong Indian army lined up on our borders, ready in an aggressive mode. And unfortunately Pakistan will have to respond to that. That will effect the international war against terrorism," he said.

Mr. Qureshi said that the International community needs to do more to move India away from a possible war with Pakistan. "Unfortunately, not enough attention is being paid to what is happening, what the Indians are doing on the borders with Pakistan. We feel now the U.K., U.S., by the way United States has tried to defuse tensions, but I think we need greater efforts here. They are conscious of the fact that this will totally destabilize the war against terrorism. But we expect and we hope that greater pressure is brought bear on India," he said.

The Pakistani spokesman said India should try to resolve the Kashmir dispute through talks and not through military means.

"I think India needs to be told that one, it's not going to benefit India whether any ingression into our territory or our airspace, we will defend with full force. And second, it needs to put its own house in order and not externalize problems. And third, I think the Kashmir issue now needs to be resolved by dialogue peacefully," he said.

Mr. Qureshi said his country wants peace in the region and will never initiate war with India. "But it seems from the rhetoric that Mr. Vajpayee is sounding in India and to his troops, and also the movements the Indian armed forces are making. They are sending ships near Pakistan's territorial waters. They are firing everyday across the 'Line of Control' [in Kashmir] and into Pakistan. It's difficult to judge intentions. It may be ways to pressurize Pakistan. But if Pakistan is not pressurized, maybe their aim is to sort of convey to the world that they are going to go to war," he said.

U.S. and other world leaders are urging both India and Pakistan to defuse their military tensions. The two South Asian countries have fought three wars since 1947.