NEW YORK - A leading American newspaper Monday advised caution to India's leaders in handling the situation arising from last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai so as not to ignite a religious war inside their own borders. The New York Times also called on the Bush administration to use all of its influence to ensure that the Indian leaders do not opt for a military confrontation with Pakistan. "Washington's most important role will be to urge the Indians and Pakistanis to step back from the brink," the newspaper said in an editorial, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to Brussels on her way to the New Delhi in an effort to defuse Indo-Pakistan tensions. "The next administration will then have to move quickly to encourage serious negotiations over the future of Kashmir and genuine cooperation to defeat extremists", said the editorial: The Horror in Mumbai. The Times expressed its deep sorrow over loss of Indian life in Mimbai, but posed the question: How can their government have ignored the warning signs? "A 2007 report to Parliament warned that the country's shores were poorly protected" and some or all of the attackers arrived by boat. Why weren't the police and the army better prepared to respond? The editorial said: "We fear that whoever was behind it, the carnage will unleash dangerous new furies between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. And we fear it will divert even more of Pakistan's attention and troops away from fighting extremists on its western border with Afghanistan. "India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has so far shown extraordinary forbearance. But there are already strong calls for him to retaliate" with or without proof of who was behind the attack. We urge him to carefully consider the consequences. "India's leaders must be very careful not to ignite a religious war inside their own borders. Any military confrontation with Pakistan would be hugely costly in human life. And even the threat of war would be hugely damaging to India's extraordinary economic progress." "The Bush administration must use all of its influence to ensure that India's leaders recognize these dangers. And it must assure the Indians that it will bring all of the pressure it can on Pakistan to cooperate fully with the investigation "no matter where it leads". Th editorial appreciated Pakistan's move to send a intelligence official at some point as India investigates the terrorist attacks. "In coming days India will have to look inward to see where and how its government failed to protect its citizens. The United States is still learning the lessons of its own failures before 9/11, but it can help in the process," The Times said.