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State Department Orders Americans to Leave India

Friday, 31 May 2002 12:00 AM

"The Department of State urges American citizens currently in India to depart the country," the State Department said in a travel warning issued Friday.

"Conditions along India's border with Pakistan and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir have deteriorated," the warning said. "Tensions have risen to serious levels and the risk of intensified military hostilities between India and Pakistan cannot be ruled out."

In an earlier warning on May 24, the State Department issued an advisory urging American citizens not to travel to India and Pakistan and to consider leaving those countries, if possible. That advisory still stands, and the new one lends it added urgency.

In other developments Friday, Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged heavy fire across a military control line in the disputed territory of Kashmir, as the international community stepped up efforts to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes, who is in Singapore for a regional security conference, said there was no immediate threat of war with Pakistan. He described the situation along the border as stable.

"The troops on both sides have been in a kind of eyeball-to-eyeball situation for the last six months, so I don't think one needs to worry just now as to what is likely to happen," Fernades told reporters Friday in Singapore, where he was meeting with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and other officials.

Wolfowitz earlier warned that that an Indo-Pak war could have catastrophic consequences, and he said U.S. efforts to prevent a war include incentives and warnings.

"I don't think we believe in exhortation alone," Wolfowitz said in Singapore on Friday.

In an ominous sign Friday, Pakistan reportedly withdrew troops from the Afghan border, apparently to prepare for war with India. The troops are expected to be redirected to the Pakistan-India border.

A wire service quoted India's defense minister as saying that as many as 3,000 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan were in the Pakistan-controlled section of Kashmir. Pakistan reportedly denied it.

Recent reports suggest those al-Qaeda fighters are the ones stirring up trouble, hoping to provoke a war between India and Pakistan that would divert attention from the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted by an independent market research group in the state of Jammu and Kashmir showed that a vast majority of Kashmiris oppose India and Pakistan going to war to find a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue.

According to the poll conducted by MORI International, Kashmiris believe the best way to bring peace to the region is through free elections, an end to the violence and economic development.

"An overwhelming 91 percent of those polled expressed support for a forum in which Kashmiris from both sides of the Line of Control can discuss common interests," the survey said.

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The Department of State urges American citizens currently in India to depart the country, the State Department said in a travel warning issued Friday. Conditions along India's border with Pakistan and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir have deteriorated, the warning...
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2002-00-31
Friday, 31 May 2002 12:00 AM
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