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Some Visitors Unfazed By India Alert

May 31, 2002

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NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Sipping drinks by the pool at their private club, several Americans said Friday night they were not overly worried about war between India and Pakistan _ much less a nuclear one.

Some Americans, if only taking long-planned holidays, are heeding the warning by Washington that the 60,000 U.S. citizens in India should leave.

``It’s hard to believe anything would really happen,″ said Barbara Richard, who lives here and acknowledged war worries prompted her to push up her travel plans by two weeks out of concern for her three children, aged 12, 10 and 4.

Richard, a Washington native, said that without the children she would have stayed with her husband, who works in India for a multinational corporation.

``Maybe that’s stupid,″ Richard said. ``Maybe that’s naive. I’ve never been in a war. I don’t see anything coming.″

Locals have for months been dismissing war talk between New Delhi and Islamabad as just that.

But the U.S. government warned Americans on May 24 to go home and Secretary of State Colin Powell decided Friday that ``nonessential″ embassy personnel would be asked to leave.

The State Department warning cited artillery exchanges between Indian and Pakistani troops _ a daily occurrence in the disputed Kashmir region that have killed dozens of people, albeit far away from Indian cities where most Americans here would be found.

The government warning applied to staffers at the embassy in New Delhi and consulates in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.

New Delhi travel agents said Friday they’d seen no flood of people scurrying to get away.

``There is nobody trying to flee India,″ said Sanjay Dang, at the Travel World shop. ``I’ve been in touch with all the airlines across town _ seats are available on British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, Air India, KLM. All of them have seats available in every class.

``If there was a problem with Americans or Europeans wanting to flee India there would be a mad scramble and there’s no such thing,″ Dang said.

Chicago resident Vipin Goyal said he already had his bags packed _ just in case he had to rush out of Bombay _ and he was paying close attention to the government warning although it hadn’t convinced him to leave yet.

``These guys have more information than I do, so things are serious,″ said 26-year-old Goyal, a consultant with the music channel MTV.

``I’m not going to jump on a plane. But I actually do have my stuff ready in case I have to leave in a hurry.″

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