ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN // Pakistan's army chief has stressed the need to "avoid conflict" with India, days after he began moving troops toward the rivals' shared border as tensions rose over last month's terror attacks on Mumbai. Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's remarks were believed to be his first about the strained relationship and could reassure a jittery region that Pakistan does not intend to escalate the crisis further. On Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said thousands of troops were being shifted toward the Indian border, though there has been no sign yet of a major build up at the frontier.
Without referring specifically to the tensions, Gen Kayani "highlighted the need to de-escalate and avoid conflict in the interest of peace and security," a brief army statement said. Gen Kayani made the statement in talks with the Chinese vice foreign minister, He Yafei, who is visiting Pakistan. India blames Pakistani militants for the slaughter of 164 people in its commercial capital and has not ruled out the use of force in its response.
Pakistan's civilian leaders have said they do not want war, but will retaliate if attacked. Despite being under civilian control, analysts say Pakistan's army and intelligence agencies wield enormous influence on decision-making. Some say they are more powerful than the country's elected leaders. Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have fought three wars since 1960 - two over Kashmir, a majority Muslim region in the Himalayas claimed by both countries.