Pakistan and India 'one terror strike from war'

War on Terrorism: Kashmir
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The Independent Online

India and Pakistan are one terrorist atrocity away from fighting a fourth war, experts in Delhi believe. And despite claims by American specialists and India's Minister of Defence to the contrary, a new Indo-Pakistan war could all too easily become the world's first nuclear exchange.

India and Pakistan are one terrorist atrocity away from fighting a fourth war, experts in Delhi believe. And despite claims by American specialists and India's Minister of Defence to the contrary, a new Indo-Pakistan war could all too easily become the world's first nuclear exchange.

The Indian general in charge of troops in the north of the country, Lt-Gen R K Nanavatty, said this week the situation in the border areas was similar to that in 1965 just before the outbreak of full-blown war. On Thursday, sources in the Ministry of Defence claimed Pakistan had moved up reserve troops and armoured formations amounting to two infantry divisions and an armoured brigade close to the international border between Pakistan and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. They also claimed that an additional armoured division and two armoured brigades had been moved close to the border between Pakistan and the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Pakistan has pooh-poohed India's anxieties, claiming the movements were merely routine exercises that normally took place at this time of year. Independent analysts in Delhi tend to agree. Beneath the alarming headlines, they say, the sense that either side is deliberately preparing to wage war is ambivalent at best.

Yet bellicose anti-Pakistan rhetoric in India has been gathering steam. India is furious that Pakistan should have been rewarded by the United States for its support with the lifting of sanctions and other favours, even though it harbours many militant groups that have been fighting the Indian authorities in Kashmir for years.

The problem for both sides is that many militants infesting Kashmir are beyond the control of the Pakistani government. And some, at least, would be delighted to see Pakistan destabilised to the point that General Pervez Musharraf falls from power and Pakistan's pro- Western posture is reversed.

This week George Fernandes, India's recently reappointed Defence Minister, assured the public that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were in safe hands. Senior American officials told this writer the same thing, pointing out that the components of the nuclear weapons in both states are geographically remote and take time to assemble.

But one analyst said: "Amer-ica wants to believe the Pakistani deterrent is safe because they have lifted sanctions. But the Pakistani nuclear doctrine is that if India made inroads into valuable Pakistani territory – or reduced the legitimacy of military rule in Pakistan – they would have to respond with nuclear weapons."

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