Pakistan seeks to reduce tensions after troop move
By CHRIS BRUMMITT,Associated Press Writer AP - 56 minutes ago
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan told India on Saturday it did not want war and would use force only if attacked _ a move apparently aimed at reducing tensions after Pakistan moved troops toward their shared border.
Intelligence officials said Friday that the army was redeploying thousands of troops from the country's fight against militants along the Afghan border to the Indian frontier _ an alarming scenario for the West as it tries to get Pakistan to neutralize the al-Qaida threat.
Islamabad also announced it was canceling all military leave _ the latest turn of the screw in the rising tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors following last month's terror attack on the Indian financial capital of Mumbai.
India has blamed Pakistani militants for the terrifying three-day siege. Pakistan's recently elected civilian government has demanded that India back up the claim with better evidence.
"We don't want to fight, we don't want to have war, we don't want to have aggression with our neighbors," Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in a televised speech.
Still, Gilani said the country's military was "fully prepared" to respond to any Indian aggression.
Pakistan's latest moves were seen as an indication that it will retaliate if India launches air or missile strikes against militant targets on Pakistani soil _ rather than as a signal that a fourth war between the two countries was imminent.
The United States has been trying to ease the burgeoning crisis while also pressing Pakistan to crack down on militants Washington says were likely responsible for the Mumbai attack. The siege left 164 people dead after gunmen targeted 10 sites including two five-star hotels and a Jewish center.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials _ requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation _ said Friday that elements of the army's 14th Infantry Division were being redeployed from the militant hotspot of Waziristan to the towns of Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border.
The military began the troop movement Thursday and plans to shift a total of 20,000 soldiers _ about one-fifth of those in the tribal areas, they said without providing a timeframe.
Witnesses reported seeing long convoys carrying troops and equipment toward India on Thursday and Friday, but there was no sign of fresh movement Saturday, suggesting the country was not rushing the troops to the frontier.
On Saturday, another intelligence official said up to 1,300 troops had also been pulled out of Bajur region, the scene of a major Pakistani offensive against the Taliban. They were transported to a large base back from the Afghan border, said the official, also speaking on condition of anonymity. But their final destination was not immediately known.
The army has refused comment on any troop movement, but a senior Pakistani security official Friday denied that soldiers were being deployed to the Indian border.
He said a "limited number" of soldiers were being shifted from areas "where they were not engaged in any operations on the western border or from areas which were snowbound."
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, two over Kashmir, a majority Muslim region in the Himalayas claimed by both countries.
India and Pakistan have said they want to avoid military conflict over the Mumbai attacks, and most analysts say war is unlikely, not least because both sides have too much to lose if conflict breaks out.
But India _ which is under domestic pressure to respond aggressively to the attacks _ has not ruled out the use of force.
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee accused Pakistan on Friday of trying to divert attention away from what many analysts say is a halfhearted attempt to rein in homegrown terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India accuses of masterminding the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan has promised to cooperate with India in any probe but says it needs to see evidence before it can investigate any further. Mukherjee said India had provided more than enough evidence.
Recommend this article
Average (0 votes)
Sign in to recommend this article »
Most Recommended Stories »
Related Articles: Asia Pacific
150,000 Pakistanis mark 1 year since Bhutto killedAP - 38 minutes ago
Masses mourn Pakistan's Bhutto, one year onAFP - 38 minutes ago
Hotel room rates in Singapore may weaken as travel slowsChannel NewsAsia - 53 minutes ago
Pakistan seeks to reduce tensions after troop moveAP - 56 minutes ago
Pakistan says no war with India, US leads diplomatic effortsAFP - 1 hour 19 minutes ago
Most Popular – Asia Pacific
Actress Jennifer Aniston appears naked in GQ magazine
Stars of Hollywood, high-tech open wallets for Obama party
Tough times seen ahead for British, Japanese economies
Funeral of Guinea strongman as junta tightens grip
Australian 'mummy smuggler' arrested in Cairo
View Complete List »