Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was quoted in a newspaper interview published on Monday as saying the nation was close to war and prepared even for a nuclear conflict with Pakistan some weeks ago.
Senior government officials confirmed an interview given by Vajpayee to a reporter from the Dainik Jagran newspaper on Saturday in which the Indian leader referred to the possibility of a nuclear confrontation.
"The nation was prepared for war," Vajpayee was quoted as saying in the Hindi-language newspaper.
"Our forces on the border were awaiting orders. Their morale was also high. India was prepared for an atomic war but we were confident that our neighbour would not commit such an act of madness," he said.
A foreign ministry spokeswoman said Vajpayee had made clear in the interview that it was Pakistan that had indulged in 'nuclear blackmail' during the crisis.
"It is very clear from this (interview) that it was Pakistan which indulged in irresponsible wayward talk about the use of nuclear weapons... nuclear blackmail," Nirupama Rao said.
"If Pakistan had not accepted the demand to stop cross-border infiltration and the United States had not conveyed to us Pakistan's guarantee to do so, then nothing could have stopped a war," Vajpayee was quoted as saying.
Vajpayee rejected any possibility of resuming dialogue with Pakistan and said New Delhi expected it to honour its pledge to crack down on terrorism first.
"There are clear indications that the situation on the border is improving," the newspaper quoted Vajpayee as saying.
"But without proper verification, India is not going to take (Pakistan President Pervez) Musharraf's statement about stopping infiltration at face value.
"India is not going to accept any Pakistani statement until infiltration is completely stopped and simultaneously terrorist training camps in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir and elsewhere in Pakistan are destroyed," he said.
"We have won a diplomatic victory over Pakistan and the entire nation is satisfied with it," Vajpayee was quoted as saying.
"Nations around the world have categorically stated that whatever is happening in Kashmir is not a freedom struggle but terrorism in its worst form." But he added: "There is no possibility of talks between the two countries until Pakistan stops infiltration permanently and ends terrorism."
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