Nuclear arms `will be used if necessary'

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PAKISTAN WOULD use nuclear weapons if a full-scale war broke out, the country's religious affairs minister warned yesterday, as a further 100,000 Indian soldiers were deployed along the Kashmir border.

"Nuclear weapons were not meant to be kept on the shelf if the security of the motherland was threatened," Zafarul Haq was reported as saying by the semi-autonomous News Network International.

Pakistan said India has amassed an extra 100,000 soldiers, bringing the military contingent in Indian-ruled Kashmir to more than 700,000 soldiers, border guards and paramilitary troops. "This gives India a capability of doing much more than what they are saying they are doing," Pakistan's military chief, Brigadier Rashid Quereshi said, accusing Indian soldiers of crossing a ceasefire line 11 times in the past seven weeks. "It is not reasonable to call out such forces to dislodge 400 mujahedeen [holy warriors]" from the Kargil region, where they have taken control of Indian bunkers, he added. "Pakistan soldiers have not crossed the Line of Control [LOC]," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said: "We are prepared for any eventuality."

India said its military had consolidated key gains against Pakistani infiltrators as both Delhi and Islamabad played down informal diplomacy aimed at defusing tensions.

Washington turned up the heat on Pakistan to pull back from its most serious confrontation with its nuclear rival in almost 30 years. But neither Pakistan nor India seemed to yield ground in the confrontation on India's side of the LOC that divides Kashmir.

Pakistan has consistently demanded a 1948 UN resolution be implemented to solve the outstanding dispute, which allows Kashmiris on both sides of the disputed border to vote to join Pakistan or India. There is also a growing movement in Kashmir for independence.

India has flatly refused international mediation. (AP)