Militants Attack Kashmir Police Base; India Tells Pakistan to Curb Terrorism

Suspected Islamic guerrillas stormed a police base in Indian-controlled Kashmir Thursday, killing at least three officers, an official said.

The militants remained holed up in the base at midday, but it was unclear how many of them there were, the police official said on condition of anonymity.

The attack at the District Police Lines base in Doda came hours after Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh warned that if Pakistan wants peace, it must act urgently to stop Islamic militants from infiltrating Indian territory to carry out terror attacks in the dispute over Kashmir.

Singh stopped short of saying how long India could remain patient. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said after meeting with both sides that "war is not inevitable." But Pakistan's president said his country's defense forces were "ready to face any challenge."

Also Wednesday, shelling by both sides continued across the line dividing predominantly Muslim Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals, killing 23 civilians, the nations said.

India has said it does not believe Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's claim to be clamping down on Muslim extremists who want Kashmir to either be part of Pakistan, which is Muslim, or to be independent. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir.

"It is vital that he recognizes the urgency of the situation," Singh said. "India has waited patiently for the fulfillment of those commitments. They are vital for peace and also vital to the global fight against terrorism."

Straw said Wednesday night that the international community could help Pakistan end cross-border terrorism in India through "precise assistance." He declined to elaborate.

After his meetings in New Delhi and Islamabad, Straw said, "The situation is dangerous, but war is not inevitable. It's also clear that neither side wishes to have a war."

But Pakistan's state TV quoted Musharraf as telling air force officers Wednesday, "India has created a dangerous situation in the region and the defense forces were ready to face any challenge if war was thrust upon us."

A war between India and Pakistan would be their fourth since attaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Straw said it was up to Musharraf to prove he is serious about stopping Muslim militants. The two met Tuesday in Islamabad.

"The testament of any statement is by actions and not by words," Straw said. "The international community looks to press Musharraf to assure that this undertaking is fulfilled on the ground."

Straw refused to detail his meetings except to say they covered "material worthy of further discussion."

According to Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akran, the possibility of a 300-strong helicopter monitoring force along the Kashmir border was discussed by Straw.

"As far as Pakistan is concerned, if India was to accept that, we would also consider accepting that on both sides of the Line of Control to monitor the situation," said Akran.

Straw said he would phone British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the EU minister for foreign relations, Chris Patten, during his overnight flight back to Britain.

Pakistan's army said Wednesday that Indian shelling killed 12 civilians on its side of the border and wounded 17 others.

Seven people, including a 12-year-old girl, were killed nearly 100 miles south of Muzaffarabad, said police Deputy Commissioner Poonch Liaqad Hussein.

Five other Pakistani civilians were killed near Sialkot along the disputed border, the army said.

The Indian army said cross-border firing killed 11 Indian civilians in Kashmir — six in Dras, 95 miles north of Srinagar, and five in the Punch sector.

The rivals have massed 1 million troops along their border, and India has moved its warships closer to Pakistan. Pakistan on Tuesday completed three test-firings of nuclear-capable missiles that could reach India.

Russia and the EU on Wednesday said those tests "can not but aggravate the already worrying situation in South Asia."

U.S. officials in Washington are concerned that Pakistan's troubles with India could prompt it to pay less attention to tribal areas of western Pakistan, where members of Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network apparently are staying.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the two leaders meet during an Asian summit in Kazakhstan next week. Vajpayee said he will not meet with Musharraf, although both said they would meet with Putin.

Vajpayee insists on first seeing a concrete reduction in violence by Muslim militants and the closure of camps run by militants in Pakistani Kashmir.

India accuses Pakistan of waging a "proxy war" for 12 years by funding, training and arming the militants and providing covering fire for them to cross the border.

Pakistan says it provides only "moral support" to militants engaged in a "freedom struggle" by native Kashmiris in Jammu-Kashmir.

At least 60,000 people have died since the insurgency began in 1989.

One militant said Wednesday that Musharraf is making his fight more difficult by severing ties and cutting off routes into Indian territory.

"We have been stabbed in the back and abandoned by Pakistan in the same way in which ... it had disassociated itself from the Taliban," Commander Mohammed Musa, spokesman for the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed group, told The Associated Press from Pakistan.