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The News International, Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Pakistan hopes India will see reason

World asked to help defuse tension; monitoring of cross-border activity offered to check Indian charge of terrorism

By Mariana Baabar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday called upon the international community to help defuse tension between India and Pakistan and prevail upon India to recall its troops from Pakistan's eastern borders. "The international community should not give up its efforts to defuse tensions and we hope that finally India will see reason. Pakistan wants reduction in these tensions. We are keeping all friends, including the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) updated and all of them agree that there should be reduction of tension and resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan," Foreign Office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan told a weekly briefing.

Khan said the international community was fully cognizant of the situation and several countries, including Russia, the United States, Kuwait and Bangladesh had spoken out about the need for the resolution of all problems through dialogue. As war hysteria continues to build up and firing from across the Line of Control continues unabated and causalities on both sides of the LoC, Aziz Khan refused to be drawn into the future possibilities, saying: "I cannot do any fortune telling. The situation on the borer remains the same and it is for the ISPR to keep the media update on the border situation."

When asked if the prevailing threats on the eastern borders did not demand that Pakistani forces should be recalled from its western borders on Afghanistan, Aziz Khan replied: "The government is fully aware of its security requirements and the armed forces can defend the country." The spokesman, to a query about al-Qaeda forces penetrating inside Pakistan, said the Pakistani forces were constantly monitoring their borders and would not allow any intrusion from Afghanistan.

As regards a possible meeting of the commissioners to discuss the Indus Water Treaty, Aziz Khan said though dates have been set for such a meeting, right now it is not possible to say whether such a meeting is possible. He said that there were fears regarding India respecting this treaty but it had to be remembered that it was a bilateral treaty and there was a guarantor to this treaty.

The spokesman was asked about the government's response to a call from the All Parties Conference asking for President Pervez Musharraf to concentrate on his role as the chief of army staff and give up the rest of his offices by setting up a caretaker set-up of national consensus. He replied: "The government is functioning very well and cognizant of all that is going on. The government is asking for the cooperation of all political parties at this point in time.

It also expects full cooperation to be given to it by all Pakistanis." To a query regarding the visit of a delegation of the European Commission, the spokesman said that in the talks in Islamabad it would be apprised of the prevailing situation. "The EU agrees with us that there should be reduction in tension and resumption of dialogue," the spokesman said.

Khan said the Chairman of EU Parliamentary Committee was probably not very well briefed about the roadmap to democracy, which was announced by the president. He said the government was strictly following the roadmap and everyone was aware of it. "The April 30 referendum had nothing to do with the democracy," he said, adding: "It had rather reinforced President Pervez Musharraf's resolve to restore real democracy in the country."

Responding to a question, the spokesman categorically said there was no "cross-border" terrorism as had been alleged by India. "As for verification of our claim is concerned, we are ready for the deployment of independent international observers on both sides of the LoC to see for themselves that there is no 'cross-border' activity taking place," he asserted. He said: "We are ready for that, (but) India is not ready for that."

Replying to a question about the reported statement of the Indian external affairs minister that India was considering withdrawing Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status and that what would be its impact on Pakistan, the spokesman said the trade between the two countries was negligible, implying, that there would be no impact of such a decision. He also said that US State Department official Richard Armitage would visit Pakistan but the date was not finalised. To a question, he said the Pakistan government also constantly briefs the United Nations about developments in the region.

India rejects

NEW DELHI: India on Monday rejected a call by Pakistan to appoint foreign observers to determine whether militants were crossing a ceasefire line in disputed Kashmir. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said figures of infiltration had increased and Pakistan was engaging in diversionary tactics by calling for observers instead of stopping cross-border movement of Muslim guerrillas. "The figures of infiltration have gone up," Rao told reporters. "All evidence points to the fact that Pakistan's complicity... in aiding cross-border terrorism continues to be a reality."

 

The Hindu, Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Come to the table: Pak.

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD May 20. The Musharraf Government has reiterated its call to New Delhi to come to the negotiating table for the resolution of all differences, even as it claimed to be prepared to meet any threat from across the border.

The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, Aziz Ahmed Khan, told a news conference here today that all issues should be resolved through bilateral talks. He said that this view had been endorsed by a number of countries, including the U.S. and Russia.

He was responding to a volley of questions from correspondents at the weekly news conference. Diplomatic and political observers here are intrigued over the `laidback' attitude of the Musharraf Government in the face of a series of actions taken by New Delhi in the last few days.

In what appears to be a message to the rest of the world in general, and India in particular, that it is business as usual for the Pakistan Government, an official press statement made it known that the President, Pervez Musharraf, presided over a meeting of the Privatisation Commission.

The Pakistan Information Minister, Nisar Memon, in an announcement said that Gen. Musharraf would hold consultations on Wednesday with leaders of political parties, editors and other opinion-makers on the situation arising out of the tension on the borders.

The same day, Gen. Musharraf would preside over a joint meeting of the federal Cabinet and the National Security Council to review the internal and external security environment and the preparedness of the forces to meet any contingency. Gen. Musharraf's decision to consult people from a ``cross-section of society'' appears to be a response to the demand at the All-Party Conference meeting in Lahore on Sunday for his resignation both as President and Chief of Army Staff.

The APC, attended by representatives of 29 parties, most of whom vehemently opposed the April 30 referendum, adopted a resolution pinning the blame for the current crisis on the Musharraf Government.

The APC appears to have endorsed the line taken by the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, that `political change' in Pakistan was the need of the hour to de-escalate tension in the region.

The APC warned India against any aggression and expressed total solidarity with the Pakistan Army. However, it was of the view that the threats faced by Pakistan could be best faced with the formation of a `caretaker government' and appointment of a `full-time Army Chief'.

The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, however, sought to brush aside the APC deliberations as an ``internal matter'' of the country and maintained that the Musharraf regime had sought the co-operation of all elements when it was faced with threats from across the border.

Asked for his reaction to New Delhi's decision to place its paramilitary forces under the Army command, Mr. Khan said that it would not alter the situation on the ground.

``After all, the Indian forces are already mobilised on the borders and the paramilitary forces are there. There cannot be any further escalation.''

 

The News International, Thursday, May 23, 2002
Time for 'decisive fight': Vajpayee

India moves five navy ships close to Pakistan; air force on alert

HELD SRINAGAR: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Wednesday said the time had come for a "decisive fight", as the Indian navy sent warships towards Pakistan and put on alert its air force.

Vajpayee arrived in Srinagar in mid-morning from Jammu amid very tight security, and immediately after his arrival he boarded a helicopter for the border areas.

He told troops on the front-line that his visit to soldiers in held Kashmir should be seen as a signal. "Whether our neighbour understands this signal or not, whether the world takes account of it or not, history will be witness to this. We shall write a new chapter of victory," he told soldiers in Kupwara.

"Be prepared for sacrifices. But our aim should be victory. Because it's now time for a decisive fight," he said in a speech, which was broadcast live nation-wide on state television. "In this war, we will win... We have to fight our own war, we are ready for it, we are prepared for it," Vajpayee. He did not spell out against whom the fight would be.

In a further sign that India is exploring a military option against Islamabad, the navy said that it had re-deployed five warships from the country's eastern seaboard to the Arabian Sea, closer to Pakistan. "We have moved five front-line ships of the eastern fleet to be cross-deployed to the western seaboard to augment the force levels," Commander Rahul Gupta, spokesman for the Indian Navy, told AFP. The Indian Navy has a total of 140 ships. The spokesman said the ships, a destroyer, a frigate and three corvettes, would reach the Arabian Sea within a week.

Highly-placed naval sources told AFP that four of the vessels are armed with missiles but the spokesman declined to elaborate on the redeployment. "A Russian-built destroyer, an indigenous frigate and three corvettes are steaming into the Arabian Sea from the Bay of Bengal," the source said, adding the destroyer, the frigate and two of the corvettes are capable of launching missiles.

The Indian Navy has already brought the country's merchant navy under its flag and kept its only aircraft carrier on a state of alert in the Bay of Bengal. The Indian Air Force also went on alert. "We are still not at the stage where we scramble jets but we are now on a state of alert," a senior official from the Western Air Command told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said the air force has also cleared some 80 grounded MiG-21s for operational duty due to the increased tensions. The planes were grounded when a jet ploughed into a state-run bank, killing or injuring 23 people earlier this month. "We are also re-deploying our Mirage-2000 and Jaguars to forward locations from their mother bases," the official said of the fleet of French- and British-built warplanes, which adds to India's mainly Russian-built air force.

The Press Trust of India said the air force was also moving its "strategic assets", including ground-to-air-missiles to protect vital installations but there was no independent confirmation of the dispatch.

 

The Hindu, Monday, June 03, 2002
Musharraf appeals to Vajpayee for peace talks

DUSHANBE June 2. The Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, insisted today that Pakistan will not start a war with India over Kashmir and reiterated his appeal to the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, for peace talks.

"Pakistan will not start a war. We support solving the conflict through peaceful means,'' Gen. Musharraf told reporters in Dushanbe, during a stopover on his way to the Asian summit in Kazakhstan that Mr. Vajpayee was also to attend.

He had said for months that he wanted a dialogue with Mr. Vajpayee over Kashmir, but Mr. Vajpayee said that there must be a stop to terrorist attacks by Islamic militants crossing into Kashmir.

" I'm ready to meet anywhere and at any level. I would like the talks to be one-on-one, but if (Vajpayee) he doesn't want to, I will not insist,'' Gen. Musharraf said. He was optimistic about the Russian President, Vladimir Putin's offer to mediate talks this week between the leaders on the sidelines of the Kazakhstan summit. "I think that he (Putin) can persuade India to join a dialogue,'' Gen. Musharraf said. The Tajikistan President, Emomali Rakhmonov, said today his country was also willing to facilitate the start of negotiations between India and Pakistan, according to the Interfax news agency— AP `Infiltrations have stopped' Muzaffarabad (Pakistan) June 2. Kashmiri rebels have virtually halted infiltrations into Kashmir under instructions from Islamabad, in a bid to avert a war with India, militant sources said today.

India has demanded that Pakistan fulfil a promise to end support for what it calls ``cross-border terrorism'', and the United States has also asked the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, to do more to prevent militants crossing from Pakistan to India.

Sources close to the Kashmiri separatist groups in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, said they had received the message.

``We have been asked to stop sending militants across the Line of Control,'' a militant source told Reuters. ``They have been asked, so infiltration has virtually stopped,'' another source close to the militants said. ``The instruction was issued around a week ago or so.''

Pak. blocks funds to madrasas

Pakistani authorities have stopped funding 115 Islamic religious schools (madrasas) across the country for their involvement in extremism and militancy.

The institutions were found involved in ``sectarian violence and terrorism,'' Mufti Abdul Qavi, member of the Pakistan Madrasa Education Board, told a news conference in Multan. They will not be entitled to financial assistance from the Government and their activities will be under observation.

The action follows the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf's decision to crack down on extremism and curb religious militancy. He has already banned five radical Islamic groups— AFP

 

The News International, Tuesday, June 04, 2002
Musharraf offers unconditional talks

Says Putin can play definitive role in mediation between India and Pakistan

ALMATY: President Pervez Musharraf said on Monday he is prepared "unconditionally" to hold talks on the Kashmir crisis with India's leader during a regional summit on security in the Kazakh economic capital Almaty. "I don't have any conditions (for a meeting). You need to ask this question to (Prime Minister Atal Behari) Vajpayee," Musharraf told a news conference after a meeting with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Questioned on the prospects of avoiding war between the two nuclear rivals, Musharraf replied: "I will do my utmost. I hope I will be successful. They say you can't clap with one hand, you clap with two hands, but the second has to be equally supportive in avoiding war. That is how we will succeed in avoiding war."

In an interview on Russian RTR television, Musharraf later said the Indian refusal to hold direct talks was preventing progress in resolving the issue. "As far as I am concerned, the main problem is the obstinacy and the reluctance of the Indian leadership to join with us in a process of dialogue," he said.

He stressed that the use of nuclear weapons was not an option. "Nuclear war in the present age is unthinkable. No sane personality would even discuss that," he told RTR television. "I believe that India and Pakistan ought to be sensible enough and responsible enough to prevent or avoid a nuclear conflict," he said.

Musharraf said Nazarbayev had told him he had been unable to obtain an assurance from Vajpayee during a separate meeting that the Indian premier would agree to speak to him. On the prospects for Russian mediation, Musharraf said President Vladimir Putin was "in a very important position to play a definitive role in mediation between India and Pakistan".

Earlier, a number of bilateral issues including the situation obtaining in the subcontinent came under discussion when President Musharraf called on President Nursultan Nazarbaye after his arrival here to attend the 16-nation CICA being held on Tuesday. According to the officials, the meeting lasted one hour in which discussion took place on a number of subjects aimed at promoting further close relations between the two countries.

The president was assisted during his talks by Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, Information Minister Nisar Memon, Director-General ISPR Major-General Rashid Qureshi and Pakistan's Ambassador to Kazakhstan Durray Shahwar Kureshi. Later, Information Minister Nisar Memon said he hoped President Putin would be able to persuade India to enter talks. "I still hope that after the meeting with President Putin there will be dialogue," he said.

"We know that President Putin and Russia have a very close relationship with India but now Pakistan also has a close relationship with Russia and we hope that there will be influence on the Indian leadership." Putin has said he could mediate between the two countries, though India has rejected the offer. The Russian president will meet both Vajpayee and Musharraf in bilateral meetings Tuesday afternoon. But if he even manages to initiate some kind of contact, there will not be much time as Musharraf is due to leave on Tuesday evening. Vajpayee stays on until Wednesday morning.

"The president is here in search of peace. He has come here in search of dialogue with India on all outstanding issues including Kashmir," Memon said. "The world needs peace and for peace we need dialogue." President Musharraf arrived here from Dushanbe to attend Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building in Asia. On the sidelines of the conference on Tuesday, Musharraf will meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Russian President Putin and leaders of other participating countries.

 

The News International, Tuesday, June 04, 2002
India sidelines UN in crisis with Pakistan

UNITED NATIONS: With emissaries racing to South Asia to defuse the India-Pakistan crisis, the one body not involved is the United Nations where India has told the organization and its secretary-general to butt out. The United States and Russia, for different reasons, agree and want the controversy kept out of the 15-member Security Council. Only Britain has privately briefed council members on the visit of Foreign Minister Jack Straw to nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, whose troops are pounding each other across a cease-fire line.

"We are not eager to have ambassadors in New York get involved in a Security Council resolution when what needs to happen is more work on the ground," a US official said, with the Bush administration reluctant to involve the United Nations in more issues than it has to, the official emphasised that "we are continuing to work bilaterally to solve this very important crisis."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been in touch by telephone with Indian and Pakistani leaders and offered his services. But "India does not wish to internationalize the peace efforts," said his spokesman Fred Eckhard. "Without agreement of both parties, there is nothing the international community can do," he said.

India has repeatedly said it would not talk to Pakistan until it halted infiltration by Muslim militants into Kashmir, divided between both countries, with a small part in China. "I don't know what can be negotiated on this," said Satish Mehta, the senior diplomat in India's UN mission.

"The UN secretary-general has already called on Pakistan to do more and stop cross border terrorism from its territory. Pakistan has to respond to calls by international community if it is serious," he told Reuters. India also has rejected any expansion of the UN monitoring mission for Kashmir. The world body still fields a team of 43 military observers and 22 civilian officials watching a cease-fire border, or Line of Control, between armies from the two countries. The mission, set up in 1949, works mostly in Pakistan.

But India's Mehta said monitors would not help. "Do you believe the United Nations can spot them (infiltrators) across the border? It is not effective in any case and serves no point," he said. "Nobody likes intervention." India contends resolutions calling for the referendum (in Kashmir) are no longer valid and a UN monitoring mission has no foundation since India and Pakistan agreed in 1972 to negotiate the dispute with each other.

However, the Security Council has not terminated any of its resolutions -- adopted in 1948, 1951 and 1965 -- declaring Kashmir a disputed area. But it has steered away from the problem, mainly because of India's power and objections and divisions among its members, with Russia a close ally of New Delhi.

 

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