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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK
West steps up alert over Kashmir
Westerners leaving India through Delhi airport
The US and UK do not want their citizens caught in a war
The United States and Britain have upgraded official warnings to their citizens in India and Pakistan, telling people to leave now.

The raising of the status of travel alerts came after Pakistan rejected an offer from India for joint border patrols in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

A Pakistani soldier with a machine gun in a bunker near the Kashmir border
About one million troops are massed on the India-Pakistan border

President George Bush on Wednesday telephoned the leaders of both countries, urging them to choose the path of diplomacy and "draw back from war".

In separate calls, Mr Bush told President Pervez Musharraf that Washington expects Pakistan to live up to its commitments to end all support for terrorism and he urged India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to respond with steps to de-escalate the crisis.

Diplomatic efforts

High-level US diplomacy over Kashmir will continue with the arrival in the region of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

A soldier
Rising tension:

1 October 2001:
38 killed in attack on the Kashmir assembly in Srinagar
13 December 2001:
14 killed in attack on the Indian parliament building in Delhi
14 May 2002:
More than 30 killed in attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir
21 May 2002:
Moderate Kashmiri politician Abdul Ghani Lone shot dead

He will hold talks with leaders from Pakistan and India on Thursday and Friday and will be followed to the area by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

US and UK officials continue to say they do not believe war is inevitable between the two South Asian nuclear rivals.

But on Wednesday they said there was no responsible alternative to the alerts to their nationals, given the continuing tension and heavy artillery fire across the Line of Control between Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

In Washington, the State Department issued new advice to the 60,000 Americans in India and several thousand in Pakistan, saying: "Tensions have risen to serious levels and the risk of intensified military hostilities between India and Pakistan cannot be ruled out."

Its updated travel warning said it "strongly urges that American citizens in India depart the country".

In simultaneously issued advice for Pakistan, the department said it "strongly urges Americans in the country to depart".

Previous advice to Americans merely "urged" them to leave.

British advice

Britain - which last week raised its alert to ask citizens to consider moving out of India - also strengthened its warning to positive advice to leave.

Enlarge image Enlarge map

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "It remains my view that war between India and Pakistan is not inevitable, and with our international partners we continue to do all we can to avert a crisis.

"However given my duty of care towards British nationals and the continuing tensions between the two countries I have decided to make this further change to our travel advice today."

Mr Rumsfeld - who was in Britain for talks with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon - said he was concerned that tensions in Kashmir could hurt the effort to track down remnants of al-Qaeda responsible for war in Afghanistan.

The massing of around one million troops in Kashmir had distracted Pakistan, he said, adding it would be "most unfortunate" if more soldiers were moved from their anti-terror mission on the Afghan border.

Patrol dispute

Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to quell some of the tensions at a summit earlier this week, but President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee refused to meet.

An Indian and a Pakistani border guard at a Kashmir checkpoint
Pakistan and India have different ideas on how to secure the Kashmir border
India insists it must be certain that Islamic militants are unable to cross the border into Indian-administered Kashmir to launch attacks on its posts.

Mr Vajpayee suggested joint patrols of the border, but Pakistan rejected that - though it said it would agree to international monitors.

India, in turn, has said it would not be practical for the international community to police the Line of Control between the two areas.

Meanwhile violence continued, with troops exchanging heavy artillery fire across the border and Indian police killing at least six militants in a raid.

The BBC's James Robbins
"London and Washington are speaking with one voice"
Grace Conacher of the British Council in India
"People are starting to leave"
Howard Schaffer, former US South Asia ambassador
"The likelihood of hostilities in the next few weeks has diminished"
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See also:

05 Jun 02 | South Asia
05 Jun 02 | UK Politics
05 Jun 02 | UK Politics
04 Jun 02 | Media reports
03 Jun 02 | South Asia
03 Jun 02 | South Asia
02 Jun 02 | South Asia
01 Jun 02 | South Asia
01 Jun 02 | South Asia
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