Indian prime minister sees no possibility of war with Pakistan

Friday, June 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LUCKNOW, India (AP) _ India's prime minister ruled out the possibility of war with Pakistan, but expressed doubts Friday that the Pakistani leader would permanently stop incursions by Islamic militants.

``There is no possibility of war with Pakistan,'' Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told reporters in Lucknow, the capital of northern Uttar Pradesh state.

Although 1 million soldiers are still deployed on the border between the two nuclear-armed countries, Vajpayee said tensions have eased.

He said India was ready to discuss the five-decade-old dispute between the two neighbors over control of Kashmir, but that Pakistan must create a congenial atmosphere for such a dialogue.

``Pakistan needs to stop cross-border terrorism permanently to initiate talks,'' Vajpayee said.

India accuses Pakistan of training and arming Islamic guerrillas and helping them cross into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir to attack government forces and civilian targets, a charge Islamabad denies.

Tensions eased earlier this month after U.S. officials said Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf had promised to permanently stop cross-border infiltration.

Since then, Musharraf was quoted in a Newsweek magazine interview as saying he could not guarantee there would never be crossings. Vajpayee expressed doubts about Musharraf keeping his promise.

``The United States has told us that the general has assured them it would stop that permanently,'' Vajpayee said. ``There is immense pressure on Pakistan to fulfill its promises.''

India's Defense Minister Fernandes on Thursday accused Musharraf of making contradictory statements and said, ``It is difficult to rely on him.''

Fernandes also said hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers deployed along the border with Pakistan will stay in their positions until at least October to ensure that militants do not disrupt legislative elections planned in India's portion of the territory, Jammu-Kashmir.

The Islamic militants are fighting for Kashmir's independence or its merger with Pakistan. India accuses Pakistan of aiding, training and funding the 12-year insurgency, which has left more than 60,000 people dead. Islamabad denies the charge.

The two countries have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Two of those conflicts have been over the Kashmir region, which is divided between them.