India, Pakistan posture with armies and words
NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Tensions between India and Pakistan mounted Wednesday as Pakistan mobilized its army along its eastern border after a similar buildup by its longtime rival and fellow nuclear power.
The two South Asian nations have sparred for decades over the disputed region of Kashmir. Fourteen people including five attackers died in a suicide raid on India's Parliament December 13, sparking the latest round of accusations and military activity.
India says the suicide attack was planned and carried out by two terrorist groups based in Pakistan with the tacit support of the government, an allegation Islamabad disputes.
According to Pakistani military sources, its army has moved armored vehicles and artillery to the border in response to troop movements by India.
Pakistani warplanes have been moved to auxiliary airfields closer to India, and military officials have canceled all leaves and recalled recent retirees.
The English-language Times of India newspaper said Pakistan has deployed medium-range ballistic missile batteries in the forward areas of the international border in the Jammu and Poonch regions in the past 24 hours. The Pakistani mobilization is the largest in more than 30 years, one military source said.
Another Indian daily, the Hindustan Times, reported India has moved short-range missiles to the northern Punjab state along the border with Pakistan.
The military escalation in the tense frontier region has caused "real concern" in the Bush administration, fearful any military posturing or action would hamper its efforts to contain and defeat al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan and safeguard U.S. forces inside Pakistan.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh several times over the past few days, one U.S. official said.
The United States has also been sharing evidence with Pakistan about those involved in the December 13 attack, a State Department official told CNN.
The cooperation likely factored into Musharraf's decision to crack down on two Pakistani-based groups accused by India and the United States of committing terrorist acts, the official noted.
In recent days, Pakistani authorities have arrested Maulana Azhar Masood, the head of Jaish e-Mohammed, or JEM, the organization accused of carrying out this month's attack, and frozen the assets of JEM and another group, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, or LET. Powell designated JEM and LET as foreign terrorist organizations Wednesday, saying both "seek to assault democracy, undermine peace and stability in South Asia and destroy relations between India and Pakistan."
Both groups have denied responsibility for the attack on Parliament.
A senior U.S. official credited Musharraf with taking "positive steps," especially given the tenuous political situation in his own country.
And while India has called Pakistan's efforts to crack down on these groups inadequate, the official said the United States believes the moves are "being privately received better" than India's public comments indicate.
The Indian Cabinet committee on security Wednesday postponed for one day a crucial meeting in which it was expected to decide and coordinate its next move.
Aziz Ahmed Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, said Wednesday Pakistan would prefer to resolve the latest conflict with India through diplomacy.
"Pakistan certainly does not want to escalate the tension. Pakistan would like a reduction of tension," he said.
"And that is why, despite India's action of recalling their ambassador, Pakistan has not taken a similar action."
-- CNN Producer Barbara Starr, Islamabad Bureau Chief Ash-Har Quraishi and Producer Suhasini Haidar contributed to this report.
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