India cools war rhetoric

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

NEW DELHI, India -- In a cooling down of the war rhetoric between the South Asian rivals, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said Tuesday that his country was open to dialogue with Pakistan if it sheds its "anti-India mentality."

Despite the buildup of tensions over the past weeks, India and Pakistan upheld their New Year's tradition of exchanging lists of their civilian nuclear facilities, traded every year to prevent attack on the installations. And India eased a new ban on overflights to allow two Pakistani planes to enter its airspace.

Meanwhile, Pakistan said a gathering of South Asian leaders this week in Nepal could bring some easing of tensions, even though India has refused to hold any direct talks on the crisis at the summit.

Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will both attend the Friday-Sunday meeting of seven regional leaders, and the two countries' foreign ministers will be at a preliminary gathering today and Thursday. A Vajpayee spokesman, Ashok Tandon, said "no meeting is planned with Pakistan at any level."

But a Pakistani government spokesman, Ashfaq Ahmad Gondal, said a meeting of foreign ministers "cannot be ruled out."

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