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Commander of Indian troops in Kashmir sends war warning to Pakistan
The Associated Press
JAMMU, India (AP) The commander of Indian troops in Kashmir warned Wednesday that if pushed, New Delhi could choose military action against Pakistan's army and Islamic guerrillas. In the most aggressive war signal in years by a military commander, Lt. Gen. R.K. Nanavatty said India "must remain prepared to exercise the military action," and that the capture of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir was "achievable." India and Pakistan, which conducted tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998, share the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
"The nuclearization of the subcontinent might have altered the situation, but despite that, the space exists for a limited conventional operation," Nanavatty said.
The military had refrained from such references to war even during the 1999 frontier fighting between Pakistan and India that killed hundreds of soldiers. When asked about the threat that India is in a position to seize Pakistan's northern areas and its part of Kashmir, Gen. Rashid Quereshi, spokesman of Pakistan's military government, said it is not worthy of comment. "They are totally mistaken," he said.
Tensions between the two countries have increased sharply since an Oct. 1 car bombing killed 40 people at the Kashmir state legislature. A group that operates openly in Pakistan claimed responsibility, then denied it weeks later. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wrote President Bush after the bombing, saying Pakistan needed to understand that India's patience is limited.
Nanavatty, who commands the more than half a million soldiers in Jammu-Kashmir, was speaking at a seminar in the state's winter capital of Jammu. P.K. Bandopadhyay, spokesman for India's Defense Ministry, said the general's assessment was "theoretically correct." "On the ground we are maintaining strict vigil and restraint. In case any action beyond this is required, it will need the will of the nation and a decision by much higher authorities," he said.
India is fighting a 12-year insurgency by Islamic guerrillas in Jammu-Kashmir, a violent campaign that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. The militants want independence, or merger with Pakistan, for the only mostly Muslim region in Hindu majority India. The two countries have fought two wars over their rival claims to the territory, and a third over Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan.
New Delhi says thousands of Islamic guerrillas are armed, trained and funded by Pakistan. Pakistan says its support for the guerrillas, whom it calls "freedom fighters," is only ideological. Two-thirds of Kashmir is with India and the rest is controlled by Pakistan, but both sides claim it in its entirety.
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