Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf today has said Pakistan’s armed forces will not start a war with India over Kashmir, but he said, “If war is thrust upon us, we will respond with full might.” He added, “The entire nation is with the armed forces and will shed the last drop of their blood but will not allow any harm to come to the motherland.” In the closely watched televised address, Musharraf also gave his open support for those resisting Indian rule in the mostly Muslim region of Kashmir. And Pakistan tested a third ballistic missile today.
In its first official response to Musharraf’s speech, the Indian foreign minister said the speech was dangerous and disappointing, and said it would only increase tension between the nuclear-armed countries. India has also accused Pakistan of harboring al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon says a new U.S. intelligence report has concluded a full-scale nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could kill up to 12 million people immediately and injure up to 7 million. Officials say even a more limited nuclear war with fewer warheads would have cataclysmic results, overwhelming hospitals across Asia, requiring vast foreign assistance to battle radioactive contamination, famine and disease. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the Russian deputy foreign minister are in Islamabad to try to jump-start negotiations between India and Pakistan. Washington is sending Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to the region next week.
Russian President Vladimir Putin joined President Bush and leaders of 18 other NATO nations in adopting a Rome Declaration at a heavily guarded Italian Air Force base outside the capital today. The declaration establishes a NATO-Russia joint council in which Moscow will have an equal voice in taking common decisions on military issues, terrorism and arms proliferation. NATO Secretary General George Robertson said, “There is a common enemy out there that needs to be defeated by leaders of the democratic world.”
South Korea has rejected U.S. calls for combat troops in Afghanistan, citing anti-American sentiment. The unofficial U.S. requests have been delivered through South Korean liaison officers stationed in Florida. The U.S. had also wanted the dispatch of South Korean military equipment for its war in Afghanistan and the Philippines.
Afghan villagers are threatening to bring thousands of people from their tribe to storm the Kandahar police station and governor’s house, after U.S. forces attacked their village of Bandi Temur on Friday. They say the troops shot several people, killed the headman of the village and caused a 3-year-old girl to flee and fall to her death down a well. U.S. military officials said the raid was based on intelligence that the village was a sanctuary for senior Taliban and al-Qaeda figures. Fifty people were taken away for interrogation. The village leader died in custody after reportedly being hit in the head with a rifle. He was 100 years old.
A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a mall near Tel Aviv Monday night, killing a baby girl and her grandmother and wounding more than 40 others. The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade said the attack was in retaliation for the Israeli army’s killing of three of its members in Nablus last week. The New York Times reports a short-lived sense of security in the immediate aftermath of the Israeli army’s massive attacks on the West Bank earlier this month has largely dissipated. Fighting erupted as the Israeli army swept into the city of Jenin again today, and the Israeli army has reoccupied Bethlehem.
Meanwhile, five Israeli soldiers have been sent to prison for up to five months for looting and vandalizing Palestinian property during the recent Israeli invasion of the West Bank. A group of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has launched a controversial campaign to attract more Israelis to join them. The Israeli defense minister and peace activists are denouncing the campaign.
Child welfare officials agreed Monday to begin implementing dozens of recommendations made by a special review panel examining the case of a 5-year-old girl who disappeared for more than a year before authorities noticed. The case has led to widespread criticism of welfare officials and has become a difficult issue for Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is seeking reelection and promised to fix the agency during his campaign four years ago. The panel, which was appointed by Jeb Bush, blamed the girl’s disappearance largely on the girl’s case worker. But the case worker was fired twice by the department before being rehired and assigned to the girl’s case. The panel’s recommendations include conducting criminal background checks on foster parents, photographing children every three months and having them come to court every six months.
The Bush administration has just signed a $190 billion agriculture bill that could put millions of African farmers out of business. Government officials and independent economists say the big subsidies doled out to U.S. farmers will contribute to global overproduction of wheat, corn, cotton and other basic craps. That, in turn, will drive down world commodity prices, making it more difficult for small, unsubsidized, Third World farmers to compete. African nations will be particularly hard hit because agriculture plays such a big role in their economies, accounting for more than half of the gross domestic products in some.
The Bush administration has dispatched Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on a four-African-nation tour. He is with Irish rock singer Bono of U2, and tensions between the two men are increasing. Bono has been pushing for debt relief and more foreign aid to Africa. Together in a Ugandan primary school, where attendance has soared but many children go hungry during the day, Bono said, “If the secretary cannot see, we are going to have to get him a pair of glasses and a new set of ears.” O’Neill suggested the public in the U.S. and Britain should be encouraged to think in terms of donating Dr. Seuss books to Ugandan schools, “in effect, adopting a child.” He went on to say, “It translates better than saying, 'Give us some more money.' We need to make this into individual people things, not some cosmic stuff about billions of dollars.” Bono replied, “It takes billions of dollars. It is not cosmic for these kids to have a cup of porridge a day.”