India and Pakistan: Back on the Brink

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AIJAZ RAHI/AP

An Indian soldier watches Pakistani troop movments across the border

India and Pakistan's fifty-year hot-and-cold-running war is coming to a boil again. Sources tell CNN that Pakistan, saying it was only responding to India's movements, mobilized its entire army — even calling up some recent retirees — and put it on high alert Wednesday. Both sides have sent reinforcing troops and short-range missile batteries to military positions along the two nuclear nations' mountainous border.

The ongoing conflict between the countries over the disputed territory of Kashmir, which claimed two Indian army soldiers Tuesday as shooting erupted once again, is not new — two of the three wars between the countries since 1947 have been over the region. But Sept. 11, and George W. Bush's declared war against global terrorism, has given it new life. India blames the Dec. 13 suicide attack on its parliament on two terrorist groups it says are based in Pakistan — and tacitly supported by the Pakistani government.

Pakistan disputes that, and this week has frozen the assets of one of the accused groups, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, and put the leader of the other, Jaish-e-Mohammed, in "preventative detention." But Islamabad says it will not take further action until India provides evidence linking the groups to the parliament attack that killed 14 people, including five of the attackers. Both groups deny responsibility.

And both countries' leaders are talking tough. "We don't want war but war is being thrust upon us," Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said Wednesday. "And we will have to face it." Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday declared his nation's army "fully prepared and capable of defeating all challenges." And the U.S. now finds its critical ally in the war against terrorism accused of that which it came to Afghanistan to fight — state-sponsored terrorists — and itself in danger of getting caught in the middle of a decades-old conflict fraught with apocalyptic possibilities.