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Musharraf tries to quell nuclear war fears

Pakistan "will fight militancy in any form," Musharraf said.  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Saturday tried to defuse fears of nuclear war between his nation and India, saying that such a war was all but unthinkable.

"I don't think either side is that irresponsible to go to that limit," Musharraf told CNN in an exclusive interview. "I would even go to the extent of saying one shouldn't even be discussing these things, because any sane individual cannot even think of going into this unconventional war, whatever the pressures." (Full interview transcript)

Meanwhile, shelling across the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir continued.

Pakistani artillery shells landed Saturday around the town of Kargil, in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir, causing panic among the populace, Indian police sources said. Three grenade attacks since Friday by suspected Islamic militants in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir have led to at least two deaths and more than two dozen injuries, sources said.

CNN's Satinder Bindra has a look at the Indian claim that hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are gathering on the Pakistani side of Kashmir (June 1)

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CNN's Tom Mintier talks to Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf about the threat of war with India, al Qaeda terrorists and more. (Part 1) (June 1)

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Musharaff interview part 2

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CNN's Satinder Bindra reports that India is moving missiles near the Pakistan border and arming them with conventional warheads.

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India has a stated policy that it will not be the first to strike with nuclear weapons; Pakistan does not have an official policy on the matter. But Musharraf said Pakistan backs something "much bigger than that."

"We've called for a no-war pact [with India], that there shouldn't be any war," he said. "We've called for denuclearization of South Asia, so we've called for reduction of forces."

The pressures on Musharraf come from several continents. Britain and the United States, allies with Pakistan in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, have urged Pakistan to stand down from military posturing. Musharraf insists that Pakistan will only defend itself against any Indian aggression.

India, on the other hand, blames Pakistan for militants' incursions into the Indian-administered section of Kashmir. Musharraf said that his country is "against militancy" and "will fight militancy in any form." Kashmir is a region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, separated into Pakistani- and Indian-controlled regions by the Line of Control.

But, the president said, Kashmiri separatists are engaged in "a genuine freedom struggle" to force the implementation of a U.N. resolution calling for the right of self-determination.

Musharraf insisted that "nothing is happening across the Line of Control," but noted that "it should not end there."

"There has to be some movement forward," he said. "And the movement forward is certainly the issue of addressing, initiating the process of dialogue, and squarely addressing the dispute of Kashmir."

U.N. orders evacuation from Pakistan, India

As fears of a war grow in South Asia, the United Nations has ordered the evacuation of the families of its staff in Pakistan and India.

However, officials added there was no sense of panic and the order from United Nations headquarters in New York was merely a precaution.

The decision came in the wake of three grenade attacks by suspected Islamic militants in Kashmir.

In the latest incident, suspected militants Saturday threw hand grenades at Indian security forces in the village of Kulgam north of Anantnag, 60 kilometers southwest of Srinagar. One person was killed and nine others were injured.

Earlier Saturday, twelve people were injured, three critically, when militants attacked a security post with hand grenades, Indian police sources said. All of the injured were civilians.

On Friday in Srinagar, a grenade attack killed a child and wounded six others, including a soldier, sources said.

Indian and Pakistani troops in Kashmir are continuing to exchange artillery and mortar fire across the so-called Line of Control that divides the disputed Himalayan region.

The U.N. evacuation order follows advice from the U.S. State Department Friday urging the 60,000 Americans in India, including hundreds of diplomats and their families, to leave.

In urging people to leave, the State Department said that "the risk of intensified military hostilities between India and Pakistan cannot be ruled out''.

Britain and other Western nations have also urged their citizens to leave India and reduced diplomatic staffing in Pakistan. (Full story)

Diplomatic pressure increases

Washington is intensifying its diplomatic involvement in the crisis with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld preparing to travel to the region next week and Secretary of State Colin Powell in almost daily communication with the leaders of both countries.

Several Western governments have issued advisories urging their citizens to leave India and Pakistan
Several Western governments have issued advisories urging their citizens to leave India and Pakistan  

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is also expected to travel to India and Pakistan next week.

U.S. officials are concerned the India-Pakistan crisis could deal a serious blow to the antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan, where American and British troops have been working with Pakistani forces to search for al Qaeda and Taliban leaders along the rugged Afghan-Pakistani border.

Rumsfeld hinted that he might share U.S. intelligence estimates that a nuclear war in south Asia could leave up to 17 million dead and wounded in the first weeks of an all-out exchange. (Full story)

Russia is also putting pressure on both sides, with President Vladimir Putin hoping to persuade Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to hold one-on-one talks during a regional security meeting next week in Kazakhstan.

On Friday foreign ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrial nations issued a rare joint statement saying they were "gravely concerned about the risks inherent in the current crisis between India and Pakistan, which could destabilize the region and beyond."

The statement, issued in Ottawa, called on Pakistan in particular to take urgent action to ease tensions by delivering on pledges to stop Islamic militants crossing into Indian territory to carry out attacks.

The battle over Kashmir

India accuses Pakistan of arming, funding and training Kashmiri separatist fighters battling Indian rule over its portion of Kashmir.

Islamabad denies the Indian charges, saying it only gives moral support to groups it says are fighting a "freedom struggle" for the people of the disputed Himalayan region.

Around 1 million Indian and Pakistani troops are amassed along the border between the two countries and along the Line of Control, the U.N.-drawn border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan. (History and map)

Tensions between the two sides intensified last December following an attack on India's Parliament that killed 14, including five assailants. New Delhi blamed the attack on Kashmiri militants. The crisis escalated further with an attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir in early May that killed 34 people, mostly women and children. (Timeline)

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence, two of them over Kashmir. Both countries tested nuclear weapons in 1998 and have developed medium-range missiles capable of striking deep into each other's territory.

Despite the continuing buildup, India's defense minister described the situation as "stable" Friday. (Full story)


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