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Fearful villagers flee India-Pakistan border

BEDIAN, Pakistan (CNN) -- Fearing attack, villagers along the India-Pakistan border have evacuated thousands of homes.

The situation in Bedian, a Pakistan town near the Indian border, was dangerously tense Saturday as, analysts said, the biggest military buildup in 15 years occurred on the India-Pakistan frontier.

Pakistani diplomatic sources complained that India had embarked on brinkmanship at a time when the Islamabad government is committed to the allied effort to stop terrorism along its western border with Afghanistan, where thousands of Pakistani troops are located. On its eastern border with India, Pakistan has deployed its largest number of troops in years.

The Indian deployment near Pakistan, the sources said, was viewed as a dangerous escalation in cross-border tensions.

The international community has urged India and Pakistan to reduce the levels of tension. In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told both countries Friday that reports of their missile deployments and military movements "only heighten tensions and uncertainty."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the United States has made its interest in the situation "clearly" known to both sides.

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Nevertheless, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said Saturday that international pressure is not enough. He urged countries to show the same resolve toward Pakistan as they did in wiping out terrorism in Afghanistan.

Vajpayee also criticized Pakistan's motives for fighting terrorism along its western border with Afghanistan, saying his counterpart, President Pervez Musharraf, joined the international coalition against terror so he could gain support for taking over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Musharraf said Friday that he is willing to meet with Vajpayee next week at a summit of South Asian nations. India brushed aside the offer, saying it will not enter talks until Pakistan aggressively cracks down on militants.

Musharraf also said Pakistan would not initiate a war with its nuclear neighbor, urging New Delhi to reciprocate Islamabad's willingness to stop the escalation of tensions. "It's hard to clap with one hand," Musharraf said.

The two countries, perennially at odds since Pakistani independence more than 50 years ago, edged closer to war after a militant attack on India's parliament this month left 14 people dead. India blames Islamic militants for the attack and insists Pakistan take action against them.

Indian officials have said they do not believe their neighbor understands the depth of concern over the parliament attack.

Indian Interior Minister L.K. Advani on Friday appealed for international help but said his country was willing to act without support.

"The world will see which nation supports us in this fight against terrorism," Advani said. "We want to wipe out terrorism on our own. If the world community helps us, then it is good, but if not, even then we will not worry."

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over Kashmir. India says Pakistan backs Muslim militants who are pushing for independence for the disputed Himalayan region.

Both countries traded bans this week on flights in each other's airspace. They also cut the size of diplomatic delegations in each other's capitals.

-- CNN Correspondent Kamal Hyder and Producer Suhasini Haidar contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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