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Pakistan: India moves troops toward shared border

Pakistan: India moves troops toward shared border

Pakistan claimed India had moved troops to their shared border Tuesday, days after Pakistan itself shifted soldiers to the frontier, but New Delhi insisted it had done nothing to add to tensions between the nuclear-armed countries.
Despite the charges, both nations also continued with remarks apparently aimed at mending frayed ties following the Mumbai terrorist attacks, suggesting that posturing and bluster _ rather than aggressive intent _ was behind any troop movement.
But analysts warned that the mistrust between the two countries, which have fought three wars over the last six decades, meant any troop deployment _ even a minor one _ raised the risk of inadvertent conflict and put back efforts to normalize their relationship.
Most observers say a fourth war between the countries is highly unlikely, not least because few can imagine a scenario where India would benefit from it. Any attack on Pakistan would destabilize the country's new civilian government and strengthen its militant fringe, they say.
"When people talk of the military option, I don't think they really mean it because it has unpredictable consequences," said Lalit Mansingh, India's former ambassador to the United States.
"What I can make out is that they created this war frenzy in Pakistan and diverted attention from the main issue, which was terrorism," said Mansingh, echoing a commonly heard view in India.
Gunmen targeted 10 sites including two five-star hotels and a Jewish center during last month's siege on Mumbai's financial capital, killing 164 people in a three-day reign of terror.
India and the United States say the militants who planned and carried out the attacks were Pakistani and are demanding Islamabad take action against those responsible.
Pakistan has taken some suspects into custody and cracked down on a charity alleged linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group India says was behind the Mumbai siege.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the claims of Indian mobilization in a televised address that included overtures toward India to resume peace talks.
"I understand India has activated their forward air bases, and I think if they are deactivated, then it will be a big positive signal," Qureshi said. He also said India's ground forces had been "deputed and deployed."
Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said his country had not widened the diplomatic rift, but did not refer specifically to Qureshi's claim.
"We have not done anything which can escalate the tension between India and Pakistan," he told reporters in New Delhi. "Because from day one, I have been saying that it is not an India-Pakistan issue. This is an attack perpetrated by elements emanating from the land of Pakistan and the Pakistan government should take action."
Indian defense officials declined to answer questions about troop movements, saying Mukherjee's comments addressed the issue. An Indian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, denied that forward air bases had been activated.
On Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said the country was shifting up to 20,000 troops from the Afghan border area _ where they are among more than 100,000 fighting al-Qaida and Taliban militants _ to the Indian frontier. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
The United States and other Western allies have called for both sides to de-escalate tensions and will be especially worried about Pakistan diverting troops away from the Afghan border _ seen as a crucial front in the war on terrorism.
One Pakistani intelligence official said Monday that 10,000 troops had already arrived in Sialkot close to the Indian border, but that could not be independently verified. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. The military says officially there have been "no unusual" troop movements toward the border.
In 2002, India and Pakistan mobilized 1 million troops between them on the border following an attack by suspected Pakistani militants on the Indian parliament, but stepped back from the brink following intensive U.S. diplomatic intervention.
Observers say Pakistan's limited troop movement toward the border this time around is likely to be aimed as a warning to America to exhort its influence to lower tensions.
"This a way to pressure America to restrain India," said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a leading Pakistani political and defense analyst.
Two of the Pakistan's three wars have been fought over Kashmir, a mostly Muslim Himalayan region claimed by both countries.
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Associated Press Writer Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.