India mobilises forces after shellfire on Pakistani border

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The Independent Online

India and Pakistan exchanged shellfire yesterday and New Delhi acknowledged that part of its elite military forces had mobilised near the border with Pakistan amid rising tension between them.

India and Pakistan exchanged shellfire yesterday and New Delhi acknowledged that part of its elite military forces had mobilised near the border with Pakistan amid rising tension between them.

George Fernandes, India's Defence Minister, said the country's troops were on "very high alert", and the Strike Corps, which specialises in the swift penetration of enemy territory for an infantry attack, had moved nearer the border in Punjab and Rajasthan. The minister said the measures were a response to Pakistani reserve divisions and other strike forces moving to the border after the 13 December suicide attack on India's parliament, although they had not taken battle positions, he said.

"It came to such a point that India had to take notice," he added. Pakistan said its troops were also on high alert. Friction is mounting between the nuclear powers. India has blamed Pakistan for sponsoring the assault on the parliament, which killed 12, and has threatened to retaliate.

New Delhi has demanded that Islamabad freeze the assets and extradite the leaders of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, two militant groups suspected in the attack. Pakistan has denied the allegations and asked for proof of the rebels' involvement. Islamabad has said it will fight if India declares war.

New Delhi says it wants a diplomatic, not military, solution. It has recalled its ambassador in Pakistan and is closing rail and road links with its neighbour. Indian officials said they would contemplate new measures if Islamabad took action against the guerrilla groups.

The parliament attackers have been identified as Pakistani members of Lashkar-e Tayyaba, an army spokesman said, and one of the dead was believed to be a senior commander of Lashkar-e Tayabba.

In Jammu-Kashmir, Indian artillery destroyed three Pakistani army bunkers and partly damaged three others in the Poonch sector, apparently inflicting several casualties, an Indian army spokesman said. Villagers in the area were beginning to flee their homes, officials said. The army also said Pakistani troops had shelled Indian border territory in Bain Galahar, 40km (25 miles) south-west of Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state. In Indian-controlled Kashmir, the army killed two militants in Bandipora, 75km north of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir.

Trouble has been rumbling between India and Pakistan for many years. Their last war, in 1971, was fought in December and January. (AP)

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