ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan said Tuesday that India had moved troops toward their shared border, following Islamabad's own redeployment of forces toward the frontier amid tensions over the Mumbai attacks.
But India's foreign minister insisted it had done nothing to escalate tensions in the region, while another Indian official denied a separate Pakistani allegation that New Delhi had activated forward air bases.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the claims in a televised address that included overtures toward India to decrease the acrimony between the nuclear-armed neighbors, who have already fought three wars in the past six decades.
"I understand India has activated their forward air bases, and I think if they are deactivated, then it will be a big positive signal," Qureshi said. "Similarly, as far as their ground forces are concerned and which have been deputed and deployed, if they are relocated to their peacetime positions, then it will also be a positive signal."
But Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said his country had not widened the diplomatic rift.
"We have not done anything which can escalate the tension between India and Pakistan," he told reporters in New Delhi. "Because from day one, I have been saying that it is not an India-Pakistan issue. This is an attack perpetrated by elements emanating from the land of Pakistan and the Pakistan government should take action against it."
Pakistan leaders have stepped up appeals for calm in the region in the past two days. The Muslim nation's powerful army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, on Monday called for lowering tensions and avoiding conflict, according to a press statement.
Indian defense officials declined to answer questions about troop movements, saying Mukherjee's comments addressed the issue.
Qureshi offered to send a high-level delegation to New Delhi to help investigate the November assault in Mumbai, which killed 164 people. He insisted India had not turned over evidence backing up its claims that Pakistani militants staged the assault.
However, he noted that Indian officials had said that was because their own investigation was not over.
"And the government of Pakistan wants to assure them that when the evidence will come to us, our thinking from day one was constructive and peaceful and we will do our best to reach the bottom of the matter," Qureshi said.
Pakistan has taken some suspects into custody and cracked down on a charity alleged linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group India says was behind the Mumbai siege. India has given Pakistan a letter from the lone surviving gunman involved in the attacks, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, reportedly saying he and the nine other gunmen were Pakistani.
Pakistan has said it is examining the letter but that it has no record of Kasab as a citizen. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday on the status of the letter's examination.
In an apparent reference to the letter, Mukherjee said India has already given evidence, and will provide more.
"We have repeatedly said that 'Yes, we will give you evidence as earlier we have given you. But please act on it,"' he said.
An Indian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, denied that key air bases had been activated. "We have not activated any of our forward air bases," he said.
Pakistani intelligence officials said last week that Pakistan is shifting thousands of troops away from its militant-infested northwest region bordering Afghanistan toward India. Witnesses in towns along the Indian border have reported seeing more troops than usual, but there have been no signs of a massive buildup on the Pakistani side.