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Pakistani Politicians To Meet On India Policy

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has summoned political leaders to develop a "national consensus policy" on India as bilateral tension grows after a militant attack on Mumbai, Gilani's spokesman said.

India said on November 30 that it had proof of a Pakistani link to the Mumbai attacks that killed nearly 200 people, raising the prospect of a breakdown of peace efforts between the nuclear-armed countries and renewed confrontation.

"The prime minister has convened the national security conference on Tuesday [December 2] to discuss the prevailing situation in the context of present relations with India," said Gilani's spokesman, Zahid Bashir.

Pakistan condemned the Mumbai assault as a "barbaric act of terrorism" and has denied any involvement by state agencies.

It has vowed to cooperate, although it backtracked on a decision to send the chief of its main Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) security agency to India to help with the investigation, instead saying an ISI representative would go.

Pakistan and India went to the brink of their fourth war after a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi also blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

Both sides massed hundreds of thousands of troops on the border and fought daily artillery duels across their frontier in the disputed Kashmir region.

The United States, alarmed that war between its allies would derail efforts against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, helped cool tempers.

The two sides declared a cease-fire in Kashmir in late 2003 and soon embarked on a peace process.

Pakistan has warned that if tension with India escalates, it would have to move troops from its Afghan border -- where it is battling Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters responsible for violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan -- to the Indian border.

That would be a big setback for international efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Zardari has appealed to India not punish his country for the Mumbai assault, saying militants have the power to precipitate war in the region, the "Financial Times" reported.

As well as developing a united stand among domestic political forces, Pakistan has been trying to drum up international support.

Zardari, whose wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in a suicide attack blamed on Islamist militants last year, spoke by telephone with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the situation, his office said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband telephoned Zardari, his office said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to travel to India on December 3 to express solidarity with India in the fight against militants, the White House said.