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India wants to limit tensions with Pakistan, focus on economy: officials

NEW DELHI: India wants to contain tensions with Pakistan after what it claimed was a successful cross-border strike on militants sheltered there, according to two top officials, who sought to allay fears of a broader conflict between the nuclear-armed nations.

One of the officials, who are both part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government shaping a new, more robust strategy toward Pakistan, said India remained focused on rapid economic growth, and any conflict would deflect it from that path.

“War is not in India’s interest at this point,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because relations with Pakistan remained tense after India announced the September 29 strike inside the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan.

“We want to build comprehensive national power – economic, military and diplomatic. We need time, but if we stay on this path, the power differential with Pakistan will become so high by 2025 that you don’t have to fight a war,” the official said.

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Modi’s government, breaking with a traditional policy of military restraint, alleged last month it sent special forces across the militarised frontier in Kashmir to kill an unspecified number of militants in retaliation for an attack on an Indian army base.

Pakistan said it had nothing to do with the attack on the base and has denied any Indian strike took place across the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border in Kashmir. It said it would repel any aggressive action from India.

Interestingly, India has not offered any evidence for the cross-border raid in Kashmir, although military officials have said there is footage from helmet-mounted cameras on the raiding party as well as from drones.

On Friday, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said New Delhi was trying to divert attention from a crackdown on violent protests this summer against Indian rule in its part of Muslim-majority Kashmir.

“Pakistan has already rejected the baseless claims of surgical strikes. As we emphasized earlier, India is desperate to divert the attention of the international community from grave human rights violations,” Zakaria told a news briefing.

More than 100 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded in the worst unrest in the disputed Himalayan region for six years.


Fears of new war

Soon after the army base attack which killed 19 Indian soldiers, some officials in New Delhi said the government would act with restraint towards Pakistan, with which India has fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir.

The subsequent announcement of a so-called cross-border strike reignited fears of an escalation in tensions between the countries, but the second Indian official said they were overblown.

“There is no concern, the chapter is over,” the official said referring to the raid India reported it carried out. “The issue is not what India will decide; the issue is whether Pakistan can act on the basis of rationality.”



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