CHAKOTHI, KASHMIR - A senior Pakistani officer warned Thursday that any war with India could be in danger of escalating into a nuclear conflict.
"When you have got the armies deployed on the border and they are sitting eyeball-to-eyeball with full preparations, it is like a huge dump of explosives," said Brigadier Muhammed Yaqub Khan.
"Even a small ignition can explode everything," Yaqub told reporters visiting the Line of Control, the heavily fortified de facto border which separates Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
"In case, God forbid, there is a war then nobody would be able to control the events. And if it comes to the survival of any one country you cannot say they will not use nuclear weapons."
The two nuclear-armed rivals have both rushed troops to their borders in the disputed Himalayan region amid rising tensions over the December 13 attack on the Indian parliament.
Passersby stop to watch an anti aircraft gun moving to a forward near India Pakistan border from Jalander, India, Thursday Dec. 27, 2001. Tension mounted along the India-Pakistan border as the Indian army ordered residents in border villages to evacuate and the air force moved more assets to the frontier air bases. Pakistan too, has deployed Medium Range ballistic missile batteries along the Line of Control. (AP Photo/Press Trust of India)
"It's high time the world community paid attention to the problems because there are grave threats of war... we believe this could be a big catastrophe for the entire world," Yaqub said.
"We have no intention to initiate war. All our measures are purely defensive."
Yaqub, who commands the First Azad (free) Kashmir Brigade numbering 3,500 troops, said this was "the most dangerous" period in relations with India since he had been stationed along the Line of Control.
"Presently the relationship between the two governments is at its lowest ebb," he said.
In Islamabad, military spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi said Pakistan could retaliate in "all conceivable ways" to any Indian escalation of their dispute.
But he described a nuclear war as unthinkable.
"I'm sure India and Pakistan are responsible nations, it's something I don't think anyone can realistically even think of. These (nuclear weapons) are deterrents which are not meant to be more than that," Qureshi said.
Yaqub said Pakistan had strengthened its positions along the line but had not moved any troops from its western border with Afghanistan, where thousands of soldiers are watching for al-Qaeda fighters fleeing Afghanistan.
Pakistan had not moved any nuclear missiles into Kashmir, he added.
An hour into their visit, reporters had heard no firing. Four Indian posts, sandbagged and equipped with mortars, rocket launchers and heavy machine guns, were visible 100 meters (yards) away.
About a dozen bunkers had been excavated in a hilltop.
India accuses Pakistan military intelligence of masterminding the attack on its parliament which killed 14 people, including the five attackers. It has since withdrawn its ambassador to Pakistan and severed road and rail links.
New Delhi says the attack was carried out by two Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.
It demands that Pakistan curb their activities, freeze their assets and arrest their leaders.
Pakistan has already frozen the assets of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and arrested the head of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Maulana Masood Azhar.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday he had added the two groups to the State Department's terrorism blacklist.
(Chakothi is located in Pakistan-Controlled Kashmir)
© 2001 Agence France-Presse