NEW DELHI, India — If Pakistan wants peace, it must act urgently to stop Islamic militants from infiltrating Indian territory to carry out terror attacks in the dispute over Kashmir, India’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
Jaswant Singh stopped short of saying how long India could remain patient. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said after meeting with both sides that “war is not inevitable.” But Pakistan’s president said his country’s defense forces were “ready to face any challenge.”
Also Wednesday, shelling by both sides continued across the line dividing predominantly Muslim Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals, killing 23 civilians, the nations said.
India has said it does not believe Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s claim to be clamping down on Muslim extremists who want Kashmir to either be part of Pakistan, which is Muslim, or to be independent. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir.
“It is vital that he recognizes the urgency of the situation,” Singh said. “India has waited patiently for the fulfillment of those commitments. They are vital for peace and also vital to the global fight against terrorism.”
Straw said Wednesday night that the international community could help Pakistan end cross-border terrorism in India through “precise assistance.” He declined to elaborate.
After his meetings in New Delhi and Islamabad, Straw said, “The situation is dangerous, but war is not inevitable. It’s also clear that neither side wishes to have a war.”
But Pakistan’s state TV quoted Musharraf as telling air force officers Wednesday, “India has created a dangerous situation in the region and the defense forces were ready to face any challenge if war was thrust upon us.”
A war between India and Pakistan would be their fourth since attaining independence from Britain in 1947.
Straw said it was up to Musharraf to prove he is serious about stopping Muslim militants. The two met Tuesday in Islamabad.
“The testament of any statement is by actions and not by words,” Straw said. “The international community looks to press Musharraf to assure that this undertaking is fulfilled on the ground.”
Straw refused to detail his meetings except to say they covered “material worthy of further discussion.”
According to Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Munir Akran, the possibility of a 300-strong helicopter monitoring force along the Kashmir border was discussed by Straw.
“As far as Pakistan is concerned, if India was to accept that, we would also consider accepting that on both sides of the Line of Control to monitor the situation,” said Akran. Straw said he would phone British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the EU minister for foreign relations, Chris Patten, during his overnight flight back to Britain.