India Skeptical of Musharraf's Pledge to Crack Down on Islamic Militants

Despite a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell, India showed little sign Saturday of changing its tone toward Pakistan, saying its distrust of its rival runs too deep for conciliatory gestures.

Powell wound up his tour of the region, flying from Nepal to Japan. In New Delhi on Friday, Powell said he believed the two countries were pulling back from the brink of war.

He highlighted steps Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has taken to confront anti-India extremists within its borders, including 1,900 arrests. New Delhi blames the extremists for terrorist attacks in the disputed province of Kashmir and other parts of India.

Lal K. Advani, India's interior minister, said it was difficult to take Musharraf's promises at face value, referring to a speech a week ago in which the Pakistani leader announced the crackdown.

"The cynicism, skepticism and distrust is too deep. Only a speech won't do. One has to see what happens on the ground," he said.

Indian officials have repeatedly said they welcomed Musharraf's remarks but want Pakistan to do more and want to see whether the crackdown halts attacks in India.

"Will terrorists continue to get money from there (Pakistan)? Will they continue to get shelter?" Advani said. "The answers to these questions will decide India's future course of action."

Advani returned to India after meeting this week with President Bush, Powell and other U.S. officials.

In Islamabad, his Pakistani counterpart, Moinuddin Haider, asked India to hold talks aimed at reducing border tensions.

"The Indian government should abandon its bullying posture and engage in dialogue through means like sports," the Pakistani minister said Saturday. India has been refusing to play cricket with Pakistan in each other's country because of tensions.

Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan have massed hundreds of thousands of troops on their border since a Dec. 13 attack on the Indian Parliament, which India blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic militant groups and Pakistan's spy agency. Pakistan has denied involvement.

Advani accused Pakistan's government of providing patronage to 20 men wanted in India, including "official limousines."

Musharraf has said he would never hand over Pakistanis but left open the possibility that some of 14 Indians among the 20 suspects could be extradited.

Powell said India had delivered more evidence to Pakistan about the 20 men, who are accused of terrorist acts in India. Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said Saturday that supplemental information sent by India to bolster its case was being reviewed.

He also indicated that Pakistan would send its own wanted list to India. He gave no further details.

"We have names on a list and we will forward that list in the course of time to the government of India," Sattar said.

Mostly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1947. India accuses Pakistan of funding and arming Islamic militants fighting in the Indian-controlled part of the region, where a 12-year insurgency has killed more than 32,000 people.

Since the Parliament assault, which killed 14 people including five attackers, cross-border gunfire and shelling have escalated in Kashmir. Dozens of civilians have been killed and tens of thousands displaced on both sides.