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India puts its navy on alert after Pakistan builds up fleet

NEW DELHI, India (AP) -- The Indian navy is on alert following a buildup of Pakistan's fleet in apparent response to the fighting in Kashmir, India's naval chief said Thursday.

Pakistan could launch an offensive on short notice, although its ships have adopted a defensive posture, said Adm. Sushil Kumar. "It is imperative for the Indian navy to prepare itself to prevent any surprises at sea," he told reporters in Bombay.The stepped-up naval moves follow more than a month of fighting between the rival neighbors along their disputed Kashmir frontier. India has been battling to dislodge Islamic militants it says are led by Pakistani army regulars.

Pakistan denies its troops are involved in the fighting and maintains that the guerrillas are Kashmiris battling for independence of the Himalayan territory.

Pakistan's navy has been on alert since last Friday, Kumar said.

In response to the Pakistani move, India put its naval squadrons on alert, moved warships from other bases and increased surveillance in the Arabian Sea, he said. The independent coast guard also was brought under the navy's command.

There was no immediate response from Pakistan.

India, with 60 warships and submarines, outnumbers Pakistan's fleet of 16 that includes six submarines capable of launching anti-ship missiles, Kumar said. India's single aircraft carrier was being repaired.

In Kashmir, the army said it overran another position held by the militants in the central sector near the abandoned town of Dras. Two Indian soldiers were killed, and eight militants died in a barrage of artillery, said Col. Bikram Singh, the army spokesman.

India has so far acknowledged 106 of its soldiers killed and nearly 250 wounded, while claiming more than 300 dead on the other side.

India controls two-thirds of Kashmir and Pakistan the rest -- although both claim the entire territory.

India and Pakistan, which both tested nuclear weapons last year, have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.