India and Pakistan agree with Bush to work to cool tensions


The Indian and Pakistani leaders have agreed to try to ease tensions that have led to their largest military buildup ever in separate telephone calls with the US President today, the White House said.

Indian Foreign Minister Mr Jaswant Singh

Indian Foreign Minister Mr Jaswant Singh said today he welcomed Pakistan's pledge to crack down on militants but says New Delhi must see action before it will scale down its build-up of forces on the border.

India has tens of thousands of troops deployed in the disputed Kashmir.

Yesterday Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf said in a much-anticipated address to the nation that Pakistan would never change its policy towards Kashmir and warned India that any attempt to cross its border would be met with "full force".

He added, however, that all Pakistanis were sick of sectarian violence and banned two Kashmiri militant groups blamed by India for the December 13th attack on its parliament.

"You can't expect as soon as a speech is made, (military) de-escalation should start," Mr Singh said. "We have to wait and see... there is a difference between what you say and what's happened on the ground."

Mr Singh said India must now act to stop all infiltration across the border or Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir.

He said India was disappointed at Mr Musharraf's refusal to hand over those India has blamed for attacks on India.

He said the Indian government rejected Mr Musharraf's description of a dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, and turned down his call for third party mediation over the Himalayan region.

Hardline Islamic groups in Pakistan have vowed to defy a government crackdown on their activities. It follows a two-day police sweep which netted more than 600 of their activists.

A spokesman for the Al-Badr Mujahedeen group said: "The government is targeting jihadi (holy warrior) groups at the behest of America and India. We condemn the move. But any crackdown or restrictions won't hurt our struggle. Our Kashmir jihad will continue."

AP &