Tensions escalate in S. Asia .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - As the Pakistani president has appealed to New Delhi not to punish his country for last week's attacks in Mumbai, India warned yesterday that the deadly attacks were a major setback to relations with Islamabad, claiming the militants who attacked India’s financial center had months of commando training in Pakistan.

While the public outrage in India was fuelled by fresh reports that clear warnings of a coming assault were ignored, another top Indian politician offered to quit after the resignations of federal home minister and national security adviser.

"What has happened is a grave setback to the process of normalization of relations and the confidence-building measures," Indian minister of state for external affairs told Agence France-Presse. India's ruling Congress Party, meanwhile, promised a "stern" response.

Despite the harsh rhetoric in New Delhi, Pakistani president has urged India not to "over-react". The terrorists had no links to any government, Pakistani leader Asif Ali Zardari said yesterday amid claims that at least one of the gunmen belonged to a banned Pakistani militant group.

Tensions between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu-majority India flared after the attacks last week in Mumbai that killed at least 172 people and wounded 239 others. India and Pakistan, both armed with nuclear weapons, have fought three wars and were on the brink of a fourth over a 2001 militant assault on the Indian parliament.

Pakistan has denied any involvement in the latest bloodshed, which threatens to derail a slow-moving peace process launched in 2004.

Pakistani President Zardari called the attackers "non-state actors," and warned against letting their actions lead to greater enmity in the region, according to a report by The Associated Press. But Indian officials dismissed Zardari’s calls for calm, and claimed the militants who attacked Mumbai had months of commando training in Pakistan.

Two senior Indian investigators told Reuters on condition of anonymity that evidence from the interrogation of Azam Amir Kasav, the only gunmen of the 10 not killed by commandos, clearly showed that Pakistani militants had a hand in the attack. The clean-shaven, 21-year-old with fluent English has said his team took orders from "their command in Pakistan," police officials said.

Another resignation

As anger mounted, the chief minister of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, offered to resign. Vilasrao Deshmukh, a member of the ruling Congress party, could follow his deputy, State Home Minister R. R. Patil, out of the door. Patil stepped down on Sunday, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would overhaul and boost the nation's counter-terrorism capabilities.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has told Pakistan that it expects nothing short of complete cooperation in investigations into the terrorist rampage in India. Pakistan's response will be a test of the will of the new civilian government, Secretary of State Rice said in London.

"What we are emphasizing to the Pakistani government is the need to follow the evidence wherever it leads," Rice said. At President George W. Bush's direction, Rice is cutting short a European trip to visit India later this week.