NEW DELHI, India - On a day when Pakistan test-fired a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, India said yesterday that Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, had delivered a "dangerous" speech Monday that offered no new steps to relax tensions between the two countries.
India's external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, offering India's official reaction to the speech in a news conference yesterday, accused Pakistan of continuing to support infiltration of terrorists into India's side of Kashmir, the mostly Muslim region both nations claim.
"You cannot put a pistol of terrorism to my temple with the finger on the trigger and say, `Dialogue with me, or I will release this trigger of terrorism,'" Singh said.
In his speech Monday, Musharraf said repeatedly that Pakistan is not aiding any such infiltration and would never allow the export of terrorism from its territory, even as he said the country was ready for war if India attacked.
Alarmed at the possibility of a war that could unleash nuclear weapons, Britain's foreign minister, Jack Straw, met with Musharraf in Islamabad yesterday and urged him to stop the infiltration. Straw arrived in the region last night and will meet today with India's senior political leaders.
"I think that President Musharraf is under no doubt about the expectation of the international community for clear action to be taken in addition to that which has already been taken to clamp down effectively on cross-border terrorism," Straw said yesterday at a news conference in Islamabad.
This latest crisis began when three gunmen killed more than 30 people, most of them the wives and children of Indian soldiers, in an attack two weeks ago in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. India charged that Pakistan sponsored the attack, while Musharraf said Pakistan had nothing to do with it.
Western diplomats fear that another attack against India could spark an armed conflict at a time when India and Pakistan have more than a million troops mobilized along their border. The military buildup began in December after five heavily armed men attacked India's parliament and left 14 dead in another incident India blamed on Pakistan.
It was unclear yesterday whether an intense diplomatic campaign by the United States, Britain, France and Russia has persuaded the general to end Pakistan's financial and logistical support for an insurgency he called a liberation struggle against Indian oppression in Kashmir in his speech Monday.
However, Singh, the Indian minister, left no doubt that India is losing patience, not just with Pakistan but with U.S. and British efforts to get Pakistan to act against Islamic militants battling India in Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state.
After attacks in October, December and again this month on Indian targets, the United States asked India to act with restraint, even as the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan. "India cannot continue to be punished for its patience," Singh declared.
Indian officials have recently voiced the suspicion the United States has let up on Musharraf because it needs him in its anti-terror efforts.
Singh effectively reminded U.S. officials yesterday that India can also disrupt U.S. plans in Pakistan. Asked whether the presence of substantial U.S. forces in Pakistan would deter India from launching a military strike against Pakistani forces, Singh said, "That is factored, but it is not an inhibiting factor in policy determinations."