Bush urges India to ease strain He said that Pakistan had acted against terror and that he hoped New Delhi takes note of that.

Posted: December 29, 2001

As India and Pakistan braced for war, President Bush pressured India yesterday to act with restraint in light of Pakistan's efforts to combat terrorism and said his administration was "working actively to bring some calm" to relations between the two nuclear powers.

Bush, who relies on Pakistan to help catch fleeing al-Qaeda fighters - and possibly Osama bin Laden - in western Pakistan, said he was pleased that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had arrested 50 "extreme terrorists" as demanded by India.

"And I hope India takes note of that, that the president is responding forcefully and actively to bring those who would harm others to justice," Bush said during impromptu remarks to a handful of reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Bush said that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had spoken to leaders of both nations yesterday urging restraint, and that the administration was striving "to hopefully convince both sides to stop the escalation of force."

Unlike past wars between India and Pakistan, officials worry that conflict this time could include nuclear weapons, which each nation tested in 1998. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir.

In remarks addressed to Americans, meanwhile, Bush cautioned that U.S. troops would have to stay in Afghanistan for a long time. Although U.S. officials concede they do not know bin Laden's whereabouts, Bush insisted that "he is not escaping us."

"I mean, this is a guy who three months ago was in control of a country," the President said. "Now he's maybe in control of a cave."

Their mission will not be complete until the Taliban forces - the former rulers in Afghanistan - are removed, the country is secure and stable, al-Qaeda terrorists are rounded up, and those who took up arms against the United States are "brought to justice," Bush said.

"I mean, there's a lot to do," he said.

The latest conflict between India and Pakistan began after a Dec. 13 terrorist assault on the Indian Parliament that killed 14 people, including the five attackers. India accuses Pakistan of supporting the militants behind the assault and has criticized Islamabad as failing to crack down hard enough on the militant Kashmir separatist groups it believes orchestrated the bloodshed.

Pakistan maintains it has frozen the terrorist groups' assets and detained one of their leaders. It says that it is willing to help India investigate the attacks but that India must build a case.

Both sides moved troops to their common border this week and imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on each other.

In Islamabad, officials called on India yesterday to back its troops away from the border, which would allow Pakistan to withdraw its troops as well. Pakistani officials also said they were open to talks with India to prevent war.

"We would like the lines of communication to stay open," said Aziz Mohammed Khan, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry.

Still, Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, a senior Pakistani military spokesman, said India was "putting itself in a corner where I think it is now going to be difficult for them to back off."

Pakistani officials, meanwhile, said that a senior army official told the United States yesterday that Pakistan may need to divert an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 troops from its border with Afghanistan to deal with a possible conflict with India. The move likely would seriously hamper the hunt for bin Laden and his al-Qaeda fighters.

The Pakistani army official and a Pakistani diplomatic source, speaking on condition they not be named, also said Islamabad might not be able to provide crucial logistical support to U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan in the event of a military conflict with India.

Bush did not address the subject. State Department officials said they were unaware of any such communication from Pakistani officials.

A day earlier, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said it would be a "big disappointment" if Pakistani forces left the Afghan border.

Bush administration officials hope leaders of the two countries will meet next week in Kathmandu, Nepal, at a gathering of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

The Group of Eight major industrialized democracies issued a statement from Moscow yesterday urging India and Pakistan to resume a political dialogue quickly.

The statement, initiated by Russia, which has had chilly relations with Pakistan, called on Islamabad to aggressively contain Pakistan-based terrorist groups by arresting their leaders and cutting off financing.

The G-8 consists of the United States, Russia, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

China, which neighbors both nations, has also said it is worried by the Indian-Pakistani tensions and has called for "dialogue and consultations."

Jodi Enda's e-mail address is jenda@krwashington.com.

Knight Ridder New Service reporters Scott Canon and Dave Montgomery contributed to this article, which includes information from the Associated Press.

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