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Pakistan, India switch to verbal assaults

Prospects that India and Pakistan will hold talks any time soon to resolve their simmering differences diminished further Thursday, as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif described India's downing of a Pakistani military plane Tuesday as a "cowardly, barbaric act" that will "complicate the peace process."

Speaking at the funeral ceremony here for the 16 Pakistanis who were killed when the naval reconnaissance plane was shot down, Sharif described the incident as "military aggression" and declared that Pakistan "will do everything to safeguard our sovereignty and national interests."

"This is a very serious violation of all principles, all international laws and agreements," he said.

Tuesday's incident near India and Pakistan's southwestern border, and an encounter Wednesday in which Pakistan fired a surface-to-air missile toward Indian aircraft flying near the wreckage of the downed plane, have revived tensions between the two countries just weeks after a prolonged border clash ended in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

In New Delhi, the Indian capital, Foreign Office spokesman Raminder Jassal said that India wanted peace talks but that the alleged incursion by the Pakistani plane was "not conducive to the normalization of relations."

Indian officials said the downed plane had violated a 1991 agreement that required both countries' combat aircraft to stay 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) away from the border. "The Pakistani plane crossed that 10-kilometer limit and intruded another 10 kilometers into our side," Jassal said.

Pakistan says its plane was on a training mission and was hit more than a mile inside its territory. Regardless, said a senior Pakistani Defense Ministry official, the two countries' no-fly zone agreement was not in effect after India downed the Pakistani plane.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz would not answer whether the aircraft entered India. "Suppose it did," he said. "How can a propeller plane like this threaten a jet?"

There were no encounters reported along the border Thursday. But the Washington Post reported that senior Pakistani military officials said troops, missile batteries, antiaircraft guns and long-range artillery has been moved to the southwestern border, which was largely unmanned before Tuesday's incident.