India and Pakistan raise the tone of the war of words as both countries accuse each other of preparing for conflict.
After a bomb attack on October 1st in Srinagar, capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which killed 38 people, Indian artillery replied by shelling Pakistani frontier posts, accusing Islamabad of being behind the attack.
Now Pakistan has accused India of massing troops along the frontier and of reorganising its air force to form a more aggressive capacity. Rashid Qureshi, spokesperson for President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, declared that “The Pakistani Armed Forces are fully aware of the situation and are in a state of high alert”. He added that India was planning to seize Pakistani Kashmir surreptitiously, while the world’s attention is focused on Afghanistan.
India denies these accusations, calling them “a complete invention”, in the words of Nirupama Rao, spokesperson for the Indian Foreign Ministry. The Indian defence Ministry declared that movements were taking place, but that this was no more than a routine annual rotation of troops after the monsoons and before the winter.
It appears that the visit of US Defence Secretary Colin Powell has done little to scale down the escalating animosity between the two uneasy neighbours, although the pleasantries expressed for both sides were an attempt to defuse a possible conflict. One Indian analyst, Kail Bahadur, said “What he said in Islamabad were a clear sign in favour of Pakistan; what he said in New Delhi showed he is trying to keep the balance”.
With 30,000 deaths in the last decade, the label as “the most dangerous place in the world” is well deserved.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL