LUCKNOW, India – India's prime minister ruled out the possibility of war with Pakistan, but expressed doubts Friday that the Pakistani leader would permanently stop incursions by Islamic militants.
"There is no possibility of war with Pakistan," Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told reporters in Lucknow, the capital of northern Uttar Pradesh state.
Yet the violence continued in Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan and over which they have fought two wars. Police in the Indian part of Kashmir reported Friday that 21 people had been killed — government forces and civilians.
Speaking on independent Indian station Star News Television, the U.S. ambassador noted that both India and Pakistan still have fully mobilized armies and deep distrust of one another.
The tensions "are not at the white-hot level of crisis of a few weeks ago," when there was a possibility of war, Ambassador Robert Blackwill said Friday. "But it's still dangerous."
He said the elements that caused the crisis were still in place.
Although 1 million soldiers are still deployed on the border between the two nuclear-armed countries, the Indian prime minister said tensions have eased.
He said India was ready to discuss the five-decade-old dispute between the two neighbors over control of Kashmir, but that Pakistan must create a congenial atmosphere for such a dialogue.
"Pakistan needs to stop cross-border terrorism permanently to initiate talks," Vajpayee said.
India accuses Pakistan of training and arming Islamic guerrillas and helping them cross into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir to attack government forces and civilian targets, a charge Islamabad denies.
Tensions eased earlier this month after U.S. officials said Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf had promised to permanently stop cross-border infiltration.
Since then, Musharraf was quoted in a Newsweek magazine interview as saying he could not guarantee there would never be crossings. Vajpayee expressed doubts about Musharraf keeping his promise.
"The United States has told us that the general has assured them it would stop that permanently," Vajpayee said. "There is immense pressure on Pakistan to fulfill its promises."
India's Defense Minister George Fernandes on Thursday accused Musharraf of making contradictory statements and said, "It is difficult to rely on him."
Fernandes also said hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers deployed along the border with Pakistan will stay in their positions until at least October to ensure that militants do not disrupt legislative elections planned in India's portion of the territory, Jammu-Kashmir.
The Islamic militants are fighting for Kashmir's independence or its merger with Pakistan. India accuses Pakistan of aiding, training and funding the 12-year insurgency, which has left more than 60,000 people dead. Islamabad denies the charge.
The two countries have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 — two over Kashmir.
Police Thursday confirmed nine deaths in various incidents in Jammu-Kashmir, a state in the Indian-controlled part of the region. On Friday, police said the bodies of five Muslim shepherds were found there, and that three special police officers were killed — including one who was beheaded. Special police officers are villagers trained and armed to fight the guerrillas.