Pakistani Taliban commanders have stepped up anti-India rhetoric in the wake of tension between the two countries and offered their men and suicide bombers to fight alongside the armed forces in the event of hostilities on the eastern frontier.
Militant commanders have called on Pakistan’s security establishment to end military operations against the Taliban in the tribal areas following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The Taliban leaders have issued statements saying they are not "anti-state" and are ready to "die for the motherland".
"We are fighting the Pakistan Army because it has launched operations in our tribal areas but we cannot allow India or any other power to invade our country," Qari Hussain, a top commander of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan based in South Waziristan, said in a statement.
Hussain, known for training suicide bombers, claimed an Indian attack on Pakistan would help the cause of the Taliban as it could force the army to stop military action in the tribal areas and the Swat valley of North West Frontier Province.
However, the Taliban have "no intention of exploiting such a situation because our priority would be to fight India", he said.
Another group of Pakistani Taliban headed by Maulvi Nazeer, who is based in South Waziristan, issued a statement that said: "We would be able to raise a force of 15,000 tribal Taliban to fight on the side of Pakistan’s armed forces. We would infiltrate 500 suicide bombers into India to cause havoc there."
Nazeer’s spokesman also said the militants "may have a dispute with the Pakistan government but we would set aside our differences if our homeland was threatened by outside powers. Pakistan’s political and religious forces to unite in the face of the Indian threat".
Maulana Faqir Mohammad, the deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban who is leading militants against Pakistani security forces in the restive Bajaur tribal region, was the first commander to issue an anti-India statement.
"India has hatched a conspiracy to blame Pakistan and the mujahideen for the Mumbai attacks. India’s discriminatory attitude toward its Muslim population was the reason for these attacks," he said.
"We are warning India not to invade Pakistan as any aggression would be resisted jointly by the armed forces and the mujahideen."
The outlawed militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, which is based in Khyber Agency, too issued an anti-India statement.
It said: "We have the history of our tribal forefathers before us. They offered sacrifices for Pakistan and defended its borders. It is our religious and moral duty to stop those wanting to invade and capture our territory."
The groups called on tribal elders and youth "to be ready to lay down their lives for saving our motherland".
The strongly worded anti-India statements by militant groups operating in the NWFP and adjoining tribal areas showed they "are out to prove their patriotism" in the wake of the tensions between India and Pakistan, the pro-establishment daily The News reported.