India, Pakistan refuse to budge in border standoff

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- As the presidents of Russia and China prepared to plunge into the international effort to head off war, India and Pakistan refused to budge on Kashmir, both insisting Monday that they were fighting terrorism.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met separately with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on the eve of an Asian security conference dominated by efforts to bring the two nuclear-armed nations into face-to-face talks, which Vajpayee has so far rejected.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin were scheduled to meet separately, but nearly simultaneously, with Musharraf and Vajpayee on Tuesday, ensuring that even if India and Pakistan refuse one-on-one talks, their messages will be delivered through intermediaries. Putin arrived in Kazakhstan early Tuesday.

The mediation attempts appeared to be coordinated among the United States, Russia and China. When Putin extended his invitation to the two leaders to talk in Almaty, President Bush was at his side.

NATO leaders also took the unusual step of appointing Putin as the envoy to convey the alliance's concerns about war to Musharraf and Vajpayee.

Eight civilians killed

Meanwhile, violence continued in Kashmir on Monday. At least eight civilians were killed and 23 injured as Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged heavy artillery and machine-gun fire along their frontier.

Also, Norway on Monday advised its citizens against traveling to India and Pakistan because of the tensions. Similar warnings have been issued by the United States, at least 12 other countries and the United Nations.

After arriving in the Kazakh capital for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, Musharraf reiterated his readiness to meet with Vajpayee.

Asked by reporters about his conditions for such talks, Musharraf said, "You need to ask this question of Prime Minister Vajpayee. What are his conditions? I don't have any conditions."

But Vajpayee so far has refused to give ground, demanding that he first see proof that Pakistan has withdrawn support from Islamic militants and stopped their cross-border incursions into India's portion of Kashmir.

"We've decided at this point in time it would not be possible for anyone in the Indian government to have dialogue with anyone in the Pakistani delegation," Omar Abdullah, the deputy Indian foreign minister, said Monday in Almaty.

In an American bid to defuse tensions, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is expected in the region this weekend and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is due in Pakistan on Thursday and India on Friday.

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