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India to delay military action against Pakistan

Pakistan to conduct missile tests

India's nuclear-capable Agni missile is on display at a 1999 Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As India assured the West it won't take immediate military action against Pakistan, Islamabad announced Friday it will begin missile tests Saturday.

New Delhi said the "routine" tests were aimed at impressing a domestic audience in Pakistan, but that India was "not particularly impressed by these missile antics."

India said it will delay any military action against Pakistan for at least two weeks, according to senior U.S. and European officials who are concerned about the increasing tension between the two nuclear neighbors.

In exchange, India told European Union External Relations Commissioner Christopher Patten, that Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf must "show he's serious" about fighting terrorism, he must stop cross-border infiltration and terrorism against India.

"The political situation is as hot as the temperature," said Patten. "I think frankly we are on a knife edge. There has to be some movement, I think, above all on the question of terrorism in order for us to see people pulling back from the brink. And that has to come soon."

The assassination of a Kashmiri separatist Tuesday and an attack last week on an Indian army camp that killed more than 30 people sparked the latest round of political rhetoric and military posturing as accusations and counter-accusations have flown between Pakistan and India. India blames Pakistan for cross-border terror attacks.

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But Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appeared to tone down his war-like rhetoric Thursday as the nuclear neighbors came under intense diplomatic pressure to end the standoff.

The shelling by both sides across the Line of Control, the line dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan, is continuing, but appeared less intense Friday.

U.S. officials say India might wait a little longer than two weeks, but will soon be constrained by inclement weather when the monsoon season sets in about a month from now.

The United States believes it could take weeks for Musharraf to stop the attacks on its nuclear neighbor.

U.S. officials predict Musharraf must issue an order to end incursions into Indian-controlled Kashmir, that order has to "filter down" to soldiers and others in the field and then the order has to be carried out.

But a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan warns that Kashmir separatists may defy such an order.

"The groups that are doing this without the knowledge and against the will of the Pakistani government -- but they don't have the control," said Robert Oakley.

The United States also has some skepticism that India will make good on its assurances to delay military action and may be trying to gain strategic advantage over Pakistan.

One senior administration official noted the number of Indian troops in position and growing calls from civilians for retaliation for recent terrorist attacks.

The official also pointed out that in 1998, India gave assurances to then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson it would not test its nuclear devices -- and then went ahead and tested anyway.

An assessment by U.S. intelligence suggests that India will conduct limited military strikes against Pakistan, possibly by air or ground artillery, another American official said.

U.S. officials are reassured that neither India nor Pakistan have mobilized or weaponized any missiles.

When asked about the capability both India and Pakistan have in waging a nuclear conflict, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday at a Pentagon briefing there is "no question" they have the ability to wage such a fight.

Rumsfeld was asked to estimate how many people would die in such a conflict, but he did not provide figures.

"It would be bad. It would not be pretty. It would not be short-lived."

When U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage arrives on June 4 in hopes of cooling down the tensions, officials say he will deliver a very different message in Islamabad from the one he'll deliver in New Delhi.

In India, Armitage is expected to be sympathetic, saying the United States, too, has suffered from terrorist actions. But he's also expected to say that because of the fact India and Pakistan are nuclear states, the United States understands this has a "dimension well beyond tit-for-tat military action."

For that reason, Armitage will urge restraint, with the understanding India is a democracy and as such must answer to the demands of its own citizens.

In Islamabad, Armitage plans to engage in tough talk. He's expected to offer further help to Gen. Musharraf with security and other matters, while pressuring Pakistan's president to "do something about (terrorism)."

"You have got to get serious about terrorists in Kashmir," will be Armitage's blunt message to Musharraf, officials say.

But the United States is unable to say whether Musharraf is certain he can exercise restraint and still survive.

All India Congress party met in New Delhi to formulate a future course of action concerning the dispute with Pakistan.
All India Congress party met in New Delhi to formulate a future course of action concerning the dispute with Pakistan.  

Further complicating matters, officials tell CNN, the Pentagon and the State Department in large measure, do not agree on how to handle Pakistan and India.

In the case of Pakistan, the Pentagon believes Musharraf's role is essential in carrying out Operation Enduring Freedom and don't want to rock the boat.

U.S. military and intelligence officials are concerned Pakistan will shift many of its troops from its border with Afghanistan to the Indian border.

As a result, Musharraf may feel invulnerable because he's needed, one official said, explaining why perhaps Musharraf has not followed up his landmark January 12 speech, in which he pledged to crack down on religious extremists.

But Patten warned against that "misjudgment" by the Pakistani leader.

"One of the dangers is that people get into war by misjudgment," he said. "It would be a tremendous misjudgment on the part of the Pakistanis if they thought they could use the turning on or off of the tap of terrorism as a way of establishing diplomatic leverage with India."

Meanwhile, there are some in the Pentagon pushing to allow India to "do what it has to do" because they view India's predicament as "synonymous with the trade towers," this official explained. In addition, some Pentagon officials see India as a strong U.S. ally against an increasingly more powerful China.

They're interested in "courting India to thwart China," he added and they're "enamored of Pakistan" he said, explaining the internal tug of war between the military and the diplomats in Washington.

-- CNN Correspondents Andrea Koppel, Ash-har Quraishi, Kasra Naji, Satinder Bindra, Kamal Hyder and Barbara Starr contributed to this report


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