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Militants could start regional war: Pakistan

US foreign secretary to visit India as a sign of solidarity

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Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari made an urgent appeal to India on Sunday not to punish his country for the terror unleashed on Mumbai last week, warning that militants had the power to precipitate a war in the region, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

As the government in New Delhi faced mounting domestic recriminations after the three-day terrorist rampage in Mumbai, Zardari urged India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resist striking out at his government should investigations show that Pakistani militant groups were responsible for the attacks.

Zardari, whose wife Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by Islamist militants last year, warned that provocation by rogue "non-state actors" posed the danger of a return to war between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

"Even if the militants are linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, who do you think we are fighting?" asked Zardari in an interview with the Financial Times.

Pakistan terrorists

"We live in troubled times where non-state actors have taken us to war before, whether it is the case of those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks on the United States or contributed to the escalation of the situation in Iraq," said Zardari.

"Now, events in Mumbai tell us that there are ongoing efforts to carry out copycat attacks by militants. We must all stand together to fight out this menace."

The Mumbai assaults that killed 195 people bore the hallmarks of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group blamed for previous attacks in India.

Indian officials said most, perhaps all, of the 10 Islamist attackers who held Mumbai hostage with frenzied attacks using assault rifles and grenades came from Pakistan.

The fallout from the three-day rampage in Mumbai, India's commercial center, has threatened to unravel India's improving ties with Pakistan and prompted the resignation of India's security minister.

Now, events in Mumbai tell us that there are ongoing efforts to carry out copycat attacks by militants,

President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari

A visit by Rice

The White House said on Sunday that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would travel to India on Wednesday, as analysts warned the United States could get ensnared in the row and it may prove to be a setback in the war on Islamic radicals on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

"Secretary Rice's visit to India is a further demonstration of the United States' commitment to stand in solidarity with the people of India as we all work together to hold these extremists accountable," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.

Rice will arrive in New Delhi on Wednesday after attending a NATO meeting in London on Tuesday.

New Delhi said it was raising security to a "war level" and had no doubt of a Pakistani link to the attacks, which unleashed anger at home over the intelligence failure and the delayed response to the violence that paralyzed India's financial capital.

Officials in Islamabad have warned any escalation would force it to divert troops to the Indian border and away from a U.S.-led anti-militant campaign on the Afghan frontier.

But security officials in Islamabad said Pakistan would move troops from its western border with Afghanistan, where forces are battling al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters as part of the U.S.-led campaign against militancy, to the Indian border if tension escalated.

India’s PM Singh said on Sunday he would boost and overhaul the nation's counterterrorism capabilities.

Secretary Rice's visit to India is a further demonstration of the United States' commitment to stand in solidarity with the people of India,

White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino