India and Pakistan Urged to Refrain from Armed Conflict

Catholic Bishops Call for Dialogue Between Countries

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BANGALORE, India, MAY 27, 2002 ( The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) urged India and Pakistan «to refrain from the path of armed conflict» and appealed to the government to work toward a peaceful solution over the Jammu-Kashmir dispute.

In a press statement released Saturday, the conference said it «shares the concern of the people of our beloved country and that of the international community of the avoidable confrontation between the two nuclear powers of the subcontinent.»

While condemning terrorist attacks on India, the statement made a special appeal to Pakistan «to do everything possible to stop the infiltration of terrorists into the Jammu-Kashmir region.»

Bishop Percival Fernandez, CBCI secretary-general, told SAR News that India and Pakistan must work toward diplomacy and dialogue to avoid the present situation at their borders.

«War, which ends only in the massacre of innocent people on both sides, should be avoided at all cost and both countries should understand that they cannot afford a war at a time when millions of their people are living in poverty, social injustice, illiteracy, and painful economic conditions,» he said.

Supporting the governments´ efforts to root out terrorism, the CBCI appealed to India and Pakistan to give up the idea of war and pursue the path of dialogue and international solidarity against terrorism.

«The CBCI is of the firm conviction that the people of India and Pakistan are a peace-loving people and they would never want a war between the two countries as a solution to fight against terrorism, which has affected both the countries at the cost of hundreds of innocent lives,» the statement said.

Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi said war is not the right solution to remove terrorism from India and Pakistan.

Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged heavy mortar, artillery, and machine-gun fire today along the line that divides Kashmir between them, Indian army officers said in statements published by the Associated Press. One officer from India´s Border Security Force was killed in Naushara region and five villagers were injured.

Troops also fired machine guns across the international border separating the two nuclear-armed neighbors, the Indian officers said.

Dozens of civilians have been reported killed on both sides of the border in the past two weeks.

The officers said firing of mortar and artillery shells, along with medium and heavy machine guns lasted several hours in the mountainous Naushara and Punch sectors, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) and 220 kilometers (137 miles) northwest of Jammu, the winter capital of India´s Jammu-Kashmir state.

Kashmir, a Himalayan region divided between Pakistan and India, has been the flash point of two wars between them, in 1948 and in 1965. The 1971 war was over Bangladesh, then called East Pakistan, but it resulted in a cease-fire line, called the Line of Control, being established across the region.

The cease-fire line and the border comprise a 2,912-kilometer (1,800-mile) frontier, from the Arabian Sea to China, along which the two nations have amassed about 1 million troops.

Both forces have been on war alert since December, after a deadly attack on the Indian Parliament, which India blamed on Pakistan and Islamic militants based on its territory.

India conducted missile tests in January and Pakistan has been conducting them since Saturday, raising fears of another war.

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