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Pakistan Urges 'De-Escalation' With India

China's He Yafei said that "conflict was not the solution of the problem as it will only strengthen the hands of terrorists and extremists."
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- Pakistan and India should reduce tension inflamed by last month's militant attacks in Mumbai and resume a peace dialogue, Pakistani military chiefs have told a visiting Chinese official.

India has blamed Pakistan-based militants for the assault on Mumbai in which 179 people were killed, reviving old hostilities between the nuclear-armed rivals and raising fears of conflict.

Indian and Pakistani military officials held an unscheduled hotline call on the weekend as China's Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei arrived in Pakistan to ease tension between the neighbors.

The Chinese minister met military chiefs and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

The chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff committee, General Tariq Majid, reiterated Pakistan's commitment to regional peace and cooperation, the military said.

"[He] emphasized the need for avoidance of provocative belligerent posturing, initiation of reciprocal measures for immediate de-escalation and earliest resumption of the peace dialogue," the military quoted Majid as telling He.

India has put a "pause" on a five-year peace process.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani "highlighted the need to de-escalate and avoid conflict in the interest of peace and security", it said.

The South Asian neighbors both tested nuclear weapons in 1998. They have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 and came to the brink of a fourth after gunmen attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001.

Although most analysts say war is very unlikely, international unease is growing and the United States has urged both sides not to further raise tension.

Senior military officials from India and Pakistan held an unscheduled conversation on a hotline at the weekend, said a Pakistani security officer, who declined to be identified.

The two countries' directors-general of military operations talk every Tuesday, but spoke at the weekend because of "the current situation," said the officer. He did not give details.

Pakistan has condemned the Mumbai attacks and has denied any state role, blaming "nonstate actors".

India, the United States, and Britain have blamed the attacks on Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, set up by Pakistani security agencies in the late 1980s to fight Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region.

The group was banned in Pakistan in 2002.

Since the attacks, Pakistan has detained scores of militants, including several top leaders, and shut offices and frozen the assets of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity group, which the United Nations says is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The Chinese minister expressed concern over the escalation of tension and emphasized the need for resolving issues through dialogue and cooperation, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.

"Mr. He Yafei said that conflict was not the solution of the problem as it will only strengthen the hands of terrorists and extremists," it said.

He was due to travel to India later on Monday, a government official said.