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India softens Pakistan stance

An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard in Srinagar  

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- The Indian government has further distanced itself from claims it was considering initiating an attack across the disputed border of Kashmir.

The tense rhetoric between India and Pakistan had become more conciliatory by Wednesday, as the Indian government declared that "the caravan of peace has not been overturned".

Earlier, India's new defense minister had dismissed as "rubbish" charges by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that New Delhi was threatening to attack across their disputed Kashmir border.

Union Home Minister L. K. Advani said the government had ruled out pursuing Pakistan-aligned militants into Pakistan territory.

The statement carried particular resonance as Advani is renowned as a hard-liner on the dispute in Kashmir.

In the event of an all-out assault on militants in Kashmir, para-military outfits -- controlled directly by the Home Ministry -- would play a decisive role.

CNN's Maria Ressa talks with India's defense minister about the Pakistani charges

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Kashmir: Where conflict rules
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India had the capability of solving the problem of cross-border terrorism from ''within its borders'', Advani was quoted as saying by the Indian Express of Mumbai (formerly Bombay).

Comments from the Foreign Ministry were also tinged with cautious optimism.

"The caravan of peace has not been overturned. [But] for it to move forward again, some meaningful reduction in hostility from the other side is needed," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nirupama Rao said.

The need for any intervention from the U.S. was also dismissed by Rao.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in which he urged both sides to ease their tension, with U.S. help if necessary.

Musharraf warning

Defense minister George Fernandes on Tuesday rejected outright Musharraf's claim that New Delhi was threatening to cross the Line of Control in Kashmir.

"India has never ever in its history gone to war or initiated a war," Defense Minister George Fernandes said in a CNN interview.

"So for the Pakistan president to say that India is planning to wage war against Pakistan is rubbish."

On Monday Indian soldiers shot dead four Pakistan-based rebels who tried to storm a key military airfield in the disputed Himalayan region, at Avantipur, south of Srinagar.

Musharraf later warned India against aggressive action in Kashmir, vowing to teach its neighbor a lesson if it attacks the Pakistani portion of the Himalayan province that both nations claim.

Hindu-dominated India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring "cross-border terrorism" in Kashmir and of arming Muslim militant groups fighting Indian security forces there.

Pakistan denies the charge and says it provides only moral support to them.

Dialogue ruled out

The United States has urged both countries to renew stalled talks as it focuses on Afghanistan where it believes prime terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden is hiding.

Rebel attack
Indian soldiers shot dead four Pakistan-based rebels in Kashmir on Monday  

But separatist violence has flared across Kashmir since the United States launched strikes on Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. More than 150 people have been killed since then.

India shelled Pakistani positions last week, ending a 10-month peace on the disputed frontier of Kashmir.

While Musharraf, who traveled to India in July for peace talks, has called for more dialogue, India has declined.

In India on Monday, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ruled out a meeting with Musharraf during the U.N. General Assembly session in New York next month.

Human rights groups say more than 60,000 people have been killed since the start of a secessionist movement in Indian Kashmir in 1989.


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