ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – India sharply criticized a speech by Pakistan's military leader as "disappointing and dangerous" on Tuesday and asserted that Al Qaeda terrorists now are in disputed Kashmir.
The nuclear-armed South Asian rivals also cranked up their war rhetoric after Pakistan test-fired another missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads into India. The HatfII, or Abdali, missile was the third such missile tested by Pakistan since Saturday.
Despite international pressure, India said Tuesday it was unlikely that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would hold peace talks with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.
"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,'" Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to bring Vajpayee and Musharraf together during an Asian summit in Kazakhstan next week. Pakistan has accepted, but Singh reiterated India would not resume dialogue until Pakistan stopped attacks in India-controlled Kashmir by Pakistan-based Islamic militants.
Also Tuesday, India's defense minister said fighters from Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network and from Afghanistan's former ruling Taliban are in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
"We have information that the number of terrorists who are on the other side of the border ... [are] people who have fled from Afghanistan, Al Qaeda men and Talibanis," Defense Minister George Fernandes told Star News Television.
Singh also warned that American forces in the region were not a deterrent to a possible strike on Pakistan.
"The physical presence of U.S. troops in certain parts of Pakistan is clearly known to us ... and it is not an inhibiting factor in policy determination," he said.
Singh also restated India's policy that it would not strike first with nuclear weapons if a war should erupt. "India has not ever spoken of nuclear weapons," he said.
In Washington, the U.S. military was worried that the dispute could interfere with its search for Al Qaeda fighters, a Pentagon spokeswoman said. A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there are signs Pakistani troops are preparing to move toward Kashmir from the Pakistan-Afghan border, where they are helping with the search.
After a NATO luncheon in Italy, Secretary-General Lord Robertson said President Bush, Putin and 18 other alliance leaders "share a deep common concern" and urged India and Pakistan "to de-escalate and resume talking together."
Singh repeated India's claim that Musharraf has done little to curb cross-border infiltration by militants and called his Monday night speech "disappointing and dangerous."
"Disappointing as it merely repeats some earlier reassurances that remain unfulfilled today," Singh said. "Dangerous because of deliberate posturing, tensions have been added, not reduced."
Musharraf also said Monday that Pakistan would not start a war, called attacks inside India the work of terrorists and renewed his call for unconditional negotiations.
He warned, however, that Pakistan would fight back "with full might" if attacked by India and would continue to support what he called Kashmir's "freedom struggle."
Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman in Islamabad responded to Singh on Tuesday by saying India first deployed troops at the border.
"The intemperate and shrill statements by its leaders have also served to heighten tensions between the two countries," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Britain, meanwhile, kept up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.
"President Musharraf is under no doubt about expectations of the international community to take action, as well as the action he already has taken, to crack down on cross-border terrorism," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said after meeting Musharraf.
Straw planned to see Vajpayee in New Delhi on Wednesday.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since achieving independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir. Both nations claim the Himalayan province in its entirety.
The two nations put 1 million troops on high alert on both sides of their frontier after New Delhi blamed Pakistan-based militants for a December suicide assault on the Indian Parliament. The troops regularly exchange gunfire and heavy artillery and mortar fire.
Relations were further strained two weeks ago after an assault on an Indian army base in Kashmir killed 34 people.
Musharraf vowed in January to halt terrorists operating from Pakistani territory. India says he has done little to fulfill that pledge.
India accuses Pakistan of waging a proxy war by training and arming Islamic militants and allowing them to cross the frontier for the last 12 years. At least 60,000 people have died in the insurgency.
Meanwhile, India and Pakistan's new representatives at the United Nations on Tuesday publicly reaffirmed their countries' commitment to peace.
Vijay Nambiar, of India, and Munir Akran, his Pakistani counterpart, both swore to uphold the U.N. Charter — whose main principle is preserving international peace.
In a statement, Akran called for negotiations. Nambiar reaffirmed India's commitment to the charter, adding his personal commitment "to see that we agree to further these goals."
"We continue to believe that the United nations has a legal, moral and historical responsibility to promote a just and peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute and, more immediately, to prevent the recourse to logic of war in South Asia," Akran said.