Now were did I put that radiation detector....this makes me nevous. Nuclear threat over Kashmir By Anton Le Guardia, Diplomatic Editor and Rahul Bedi in New Delhi (Filed: 22/05/2002) Britain sounded the alarm over the risk of nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan yesterday as the assassination of a moderate Kashmiri leader threw the region into further chaos. An Indian soldier mans a machine gun in Jammu Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, announced that he would fly to the area next week to try to stop the two countries sliding into war. "The possibility of war is real and very disturbing," Mr Straw said. "This is a crisis the world cannot ignore. India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons and a capacity to use them and have talked about a possible nuclear exchange." Tensions along the India-Pakistan border rose after a suicide attack by three suspected Kashmiri militants killed more than 30 people at an army base in Jammu last week. India said it would retaliate against Pakistan, which it blames for supporting the rebels. Further turmoil came yesterday with the killing in Srinagar of Abdul Ghani Lone, a leader of the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, a conglomerate of 23 Muslim political parties and social groups campaigning against Indian rule in Kashmir. Witnesses said Mr Lone, 70, was shot dead by two masked men dressed in police uniforms. They said that before escaping, the unidentified gunmen rolled a grenade into the crowd but it did not explode. India and Pakistan blamed each other. With more than one million soldiers mobilised along the border, and the armies trading artillery and machine-gun fire for the sixth day, British officials said India and Pakistan could go to war "with the click of a finger". Once started, military escalation would be difficult to stop. Officials said neither country had a clear nuclear doctrine or established "hotlines" to manage a nuclear crisis. Pakistan fears being overwhelmed by its giant neighbour and has refused to rule out the "first use" of nuclear weapons. A senior British diplomat said: "One scenario is that the Indians will attack and will get a bloody nose from the better-trained Pakistani army. They will throw in a bigger force and the Pakistanis could use nuclear weapons." British and US officials are shuttling between the two sides to try to ease tensions and, should war break out, to improve communication to stop use of nuclear weapons. Mr Straw's trip to Islamabad and New Delhi is part of a diplomatic relay designed to maintain an almost permanent presence of high-level envoys in the region. Christina Rocca, America's assistant secretary of state, was there last week and Chris Patten, an EU commissioner, is visiting at the moment. Mr Straw will be followed by Richard Armitage, the US deputy secretary of state. Mr Straw said he would not carry "a pre-cooked peace plan" to resolve the core dispute over the status of Kashmir, a mainly Muslim state divided between India and Pakistan since the partition of British-ruled India in 1947. British officials said they would discuss the issue privately, but their role would "fall short of mediation or intervention". India has resisted all outside involvement in Kashmir on the grounds that it is an internal issue. Mr Straw placed the main responsibility for ending the crisis on Pakistan. He said President Musharraf had more to do in restraining Pakistan-based militant groups. "There is a pressing need for an end to terrorism." However, some British ministers believe that without early international involvement, Gen Musharraf would not be able to turn his back on the "jihad" for Kashmir. "If he is to give up the policy of infiltrations he needs an alternative," said one. India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was visiting Kashmir, said Mr Lone's death "will have an impact, but it should not hurt peace moves". He added: "Stronger efforts should be made to bring peace. He was working for peace which is why he was killed."