|Pakistan again said Saturday it did not want war with India, as the international community tried to defuse tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors after Islamabad moved troops to the border. (UPDATED)
The United States and Russia led calls for calm in both Islamabad and New Delhi in a bid to improve ties that have deteriorated in the month since the Mumbai attacks, which India has blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
"We have lost our people -- we do not talk about war, we do not talk about vengeance," Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was quoted by AFP as saying in a speech on the first anniversary of the assassination of his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto.
"Dialogue is our biggest arsenal," he told ministers and lawmakers in remarks broadcast live on state television, saying negotiations were "the solution to the problem of the region.
But Zardari warned India not to push Islamabad too hard for action against extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which New Delhi says masterminded the attacks in Mumbai that left 172 people dead.
"We have non-state actors. Yes, they are forcing an agenda on us," the Pakistani leader said.
But on the subject of future action against such movements, he said: "We shall do it because we need it, not because you want it."
"This mettle has been tested many times. Please do not test it again... Allow us the freedom of democracy, allow us the freedom of choice," he said.
THOUSANDS OF TROOPS
Pakistan newspaper Daily Times quoted a senior army official as saying that the army was diverting around 20,000 troops from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to Kasur and Sialkot districts in eastern Punjab province near the border with India.
The Washington Post, however, said the moves involved no more than 5,000 troops, citing a senior Pakistani security official.
"We are taking the minimum required defensive steps for our security in the face of Indian troops' escalation at the border," the official was quoted as saying by the Washington Post. "Reports of heavy redeployment of Pakistani forces are false."
On Friday Pakistan Air Force enhanced vigilance and the fighter jets flew low over major cities to test their capability of countering a possible attack at night, according to Daily Times.
Accusing Pakistani national for involvement in the Mumbai attacks at the end of November, India asked Pakistan to take actions against those behind the attacks. However, Pakistan insisted that no credible evidence had been provided and India should stop making allegations.
Pakistani officials said Friday the military had moved troops from the tribal areas near Afghanistan, where they are fighting Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, to the eastern border with India as a "minimum security" measure.
U.S. URGES CALM
Although the senior security and defense officials described the troop movements as "limited", the news set off alarm bells in New Delhi, where Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh summoned his military chiefs for a strategy session.
India also advised its nationals to avoid travel to Pakistan, saying it was unsafe for them to be in the country.
In Washington, the White House sought to restore calm between the nuclear-armed neighbors, which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.
"US officials are in touch with both the Indians and Pakistanis. We continue to urge both sides to cooperate on the Mumbai investigation as well as counterterrorism in general," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told AFP.
"We also do not want either side to take any unnecessary steps that raise tensions in an already tense situation."
Both Islamabad and New Delhi have said they do not want war, but warn they would act if provoked.