Dec 29, 2008

World - Pakistan parliament urges India to accept help offer

Pakistan's parliament called on India on Wednesday to respond positively to Pakistani offers of cooperation in investigating the Mumbai attacks and condemned "war hype" between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Tension has been simmering between Pakistan and India since 179 people were killed in last month's attacks in India's financial hub that India has blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

Pakistan has condemned the Mumbai attacks, denied any role in the assault and offered to cooperate with India in investigations but at the same warned that its desire for peaceful coexistence should not be taken as weakness.

The National Assembly, Pakistan's lower house of parliament, unanimously passed a resolution expressing support for the government and urged New Delhi to reciprocate Islamabad's efforts to defuse tension.

"The National Assembly of Pakistan ... calls upon India to respond to the constructive proposals made by the government of Pakistan," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Malik Emad Khan said while tabling the resolution.

The house also urged India to exercise restraint and not to promote activities that harmed regional peace.

"(The house) condemns the war hype in a situation where war is not an option given the nuclear capabilities of both countries," the assembly said.

Fiery rhetoric has been coming from various quarters on both sides, much of it from media commentators, since the attacks.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from British rule in 1947 and went to the brink of a fourth after an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001, also blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

India has put a pause on a five-year-old peace process that Pakistan had been trying to push forward. Indian officials have said they were keeping all options open, comments the Indian media have widely interpreted to mean that a military response was possible.


India's army chief General Deepak Kapoor visited disputed Siachen, the world's highest battlefield, and bordering areas of Jammu and Kashmir to assess the army's preparedness on Tuesday, but army officials described the visit as routine.

"It is important to review the operational preparedness in the region and he has done just that," an army spokesman said.

Pakistan's air force on Monday scrambled fighter jets over several cities as part of what the force calls increased vigilance following the rise in tension with India.

But most analysts believe the tension is unlikely to descend into war.

Retired Indian Major General Ashok Mehta, a security analyst, said he expected sharp exchanges of words to continue until India gave Pakistan the proof it says it has that Pakistan-based militants were involved.

"It will go like that until the government of India provides the evidence to the government of Pakistan through diplomatic channels, which India is hesitant about since they do not want to compromise their sources," Mehta told Reuters.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said the country was prepared for any eventuality though war seemed unlikely.

"There's tremendous public pressure on the Indian government because of their intelligence failure (to stop the Mumbai attacks) and now they want to make someone a scapegoat," he told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore.

"I don't think there will be a war but if they try to do such an adventure then the Pakistani nation is united. All forces in Pakistan are united."

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday asked Pakistan to avoid "war hysteria" and act against militants. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters: "The issue is not war, the issue is terror and territory in Pakistan being used to promote, aid and abet this terror."

India has called off a cricket tour of Pakistan and the president of the Pakistan Hockey Federation said its team was pulling out of a four-nation series in India starting next month.

"Our government said 'don't go' so we're not going. That's it," federation president Qasim Zia told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Bappa Majumdar in New Delhi, Kamran Haider in Islamabad (For a Reuters blog about Pakistan please see

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