NEW DELHI - Peace activists in India are urging the government not to allow an aborted attack on
Parliament on Dec. 13, which New Delhi blames on Pakistani 'jihadists', to become cause for a third war between
the two nuclear-armed neighbors .
''Nobody on the sub-continent wants war,'' said former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral, who has been active in trying to
promote people-to-people contacts between the warring South Asian rivals.
India and Pakistan, which were created out of British India in 1947, fought two wars in 1965 and in 1971. They fought an
undeclared war in the summer of 1999 on the Line of Control (LoC), which runs through the disputed territory of Kashmir.
''We are trying to tell the government that 80 percent of Indians are concerned about food and shelter rather than a war,''
said Saeeda Hameed, former Member of the National Commission for Women (NCW), a statutory body.
Hameeda, among those who participated in a Christmas Day peace rally, the first in a series planned by peace groups, said
saner voices are being drowned out by a dangerous mood of war hysteria building up since the Dec 13 suicide attack against
Since then, India and Pakistan have been trading barbs. Last week, India recalled its high commissioner in Islamabad and
suspended bus and train services between the two countries, to protest what it calls Pakistan's links to the groups behind the
It also warned that these were only the first in a series of planned diplomatic measures.
Pakistan has meantime called New Delhi ''very arrogant''. Both countries have beefed up troops by their border, raising fears
about military confrontation ahead.
Indian officials identified all five 'fedayeen' (members of suicide squad) in the Parliament attack as Pakistan nationals. They
said they had proof that the attack was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (Soldiers of God) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed
(Army of God) militants, with the backing of Pakistan's shadowy Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
The five 'fedayeen' were among the 14 people who died in the Dec. 13 attack.
Meantime, India's demands for action against the two 'jihadist' groups and their leaders have triggered international pressure,
forcing Pakistan to announce the freezing of the bank accounts of the two organizations and the arrest of Maulana Masood
Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammed. The leader of the Lashkar-e-Toiba has also been replaced.
But these moves have not satisfied New Delhi, which wants Azhar sent to India to stand trial.
The Indian government said it was prepared for a military showdown while the high-powered Cabinet Committee on Security
(CCS) went into session to consider a slew of diplomatic measures designed to step up pressure on Pakistan.
''It is a kind of trickery,'' Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said, expressing dissatisfaction with the measures taken so far
by Pakistan after the committee meeting. He said Islamabad's responses, such as the ''cosmetic seizure of assets, is to make
a mockery of the enormity and seriousness of the situation''.
Responding to press reports that Pakistan had deployed missiles along the border, India's Defense Minister George
Fernandes said Wednesday that India's ''missile systems were in position''.
A further sign that military options are being seriously considered was the announcement by an army spokesman of the
unprecedented canceling of the annual Army Day parade on Jan. 15 -- to accommodate troop and armor deployment
elsewhere in the country.
Diplomatic options being weighed by the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari
Vajpayee and will reconvene Thursday, are said to include further downgrading the diplomatic missions in the two capitals
and the withdrawal of the Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status unilaterally given by India to Pakistan.
Also under review is a treaty on the sharing of the waters from the Indus river, considered favorable to Pakistan, and the
grant of overflight facilities for civilian aircraft, said an official.
But peace activists say these measures that are not likely to affect the military regime in Pakistan, and would just cause
immense hardship to ordinary citizens. ''It is ordinary people who are getting hurt by such hardened actions as the
suspension of bus and train services and the banning of overflights,'' Hameeda said.
According to Kamal Mitra Chenoy, who teaches international relations at the prestigious Jawharalal Nehru University,
Pakistan's military ruler Pervez Musharraf has already done enough given the difficult circumstances and pressure from
extremist groups he has to face at home.
Urging stepped up dialogue rather than the downgrading of diplomatic missions, Chenoy pointed out that Musharraf has
condemned the 'jihadis', taken action against them and arrested Maulana Azhar. ''No military ruler in the history of Pakistan
has done as much,'' Chenoy argued.
He also noted that Musharraf, at a public gathering in the port city of Karachi on Wednesday, had bitterly criticized Islamic
fundamentalism in his country. ''We have come to be identified in the world with illiteracy, obscurantism and militancy,'' the
general was quoted as saying at the rally.
But Musharraf has also warned that his country was armed with nuclear weapons and ready for military action.
Peace activists in both countries are now planning to lead peace marches to the border crossing at Atari on New Year's Eve
to persuade the governments of both countries to desist from action that could precipitate a third war.
The Citizens Peace Committee (CPC) based in Islamabad has proposed ''joint steps to press for de-escalation, restraint,
dialogue, firm action against terrorists, cessation of acts of state oppression and resolution of problems between the two
Copyright © 2001 IPS-Inter Press Service