India says border with Pakistan is stable for now

The Associated Press
Saturday June 01, 2002

NEW DELHI, India — India’s defense minister insisted Friday the border with Pakistan was stable, even as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz warned that a war between the South Asian rivals would be “somewhere between terrible and catastrophic.” 

Diplomatic pressure grew to avert another war between the nuclear-armed rivals, and the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Australia urged their citizens to consider leaving India. 

Indian officials played down fears of a conflict over disputed Kashmir, even as Pakistan pulled soldiers away from the Afghan border, where they had been helping the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Pakistani officials said they were considering moving the soldiers toward India. 

“There isn’t any change on the ground,” Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes told The Associated Press in Singapore, where he was attending an Asian defense conference. “The situation is stable.” 

Wolfowitz, who was also at the conference, said U.S. efforts to prevent war include both promises of incentives and warnings of punishments. He did not say what the incentives or punishments would be. 

“I don’t think we believe in exhortation alone,” Wolfowitz said. He said a war between the nuclear rivals would be “somewhere between terrible and catastrophic” and would destroy hard-earned improvements in U.S. relations with both countries. 

A top Indian military officer said Friday on condition of anonymity that the diplomatic pressure on both countries was unprecedented and playing a major role. 

President Bush announced Thursday that he would send Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to the region next week. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage also is scheduled to visit Islamabad and New Delhi next week. 

Shelling continued Friday across the tense frontier separating India and Pakistan in Kashmir, the divided Himalayan region both nations claim and have fought two wars over. 

Pakistan’s military said Indian shelling killed one Pakistani and injured two others Friday. India said Pakistani shelling killed one border guard and four soldiers. In another incident, five Indian police were injured when suspected Islamic militants lobbed a grenade. 

Stock markets in India and Pakistan appeared to be taking the war fears in stride. The Bombay exchange’s key Sensex index has dipped by about 4 percent this year, while Pakistan’s KSE-100 index was actually up by 31 percent in the first five months of 2002. 

The rivals have about 1 million soldiers on high alert along their border, and Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf said he was considering moving more troops to Kashmir.