- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

NEW DELHI The leaders of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan travel to New York in early September but the chance of a summit to end the artillery and guerrilla fighting on their borders is small, despite U.S. encouragement.
However Indian-American businessmen are trying to arrange a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. They believe that as president, Mr. Bush would be more friendly to India's booming high-tech businesses than the Democrats.
Hopes for a meeting between Mr. Vajpayee and Pakistan's chief executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, are focused on the U.N. General Assembly opening from Sept. 6 to 8 in New York, which both will attend.
"The ball is in India's court," said national security analyst Naseem Zehra from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. "Gen. Musharraf has repeated over and over again that he is ready to talk any time, anywhere."
Many analysts in the region believe the United States is pushing for the two to meet in New York, but officials in Washington say that while they would welcome such a summit they are not playing a matchmaker role.
"We are not behind the scenes trying to instigate Vajpayee and Musharraf to meet in New York," said a senior State Department official yesterday.
"This is not something we could propose, even though we would support it. It must be at the initiative of the two parties themselves."
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted some positive signs in the troubled region, including a brief cease-fire in Kashmir between Indian troops and the largest Pakistan-backed Muslim insurgent group, Hizbul Mujahideen.
But he said a resumed Pakistan-India dialogue, at the summit or any lesser level, is only one of the "four R's" President Clinton called for during his visit to the two countries in March. The other three are: respecting the Line of Control dividing Kashmir, rejecting violence and mutual restraint.
The official also said that India's new prominence in U.S. eyes will be demonstrated when Mr. Vajpayee visits Washington after the U.N. meeting.
Mr. Vajpayee will be hosted at a luncheon by Vice President Al Gore on Sept. 15; by Mr. Clinton at an official dinner Sept. 17; and he will address a joint session of Congress.
The atmosphere for any sort of dialogue between India and Pakistan has been soured by recent violence and gunbattles in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, where more than 25,000 people have been killed in the last 11 years.
An Indian army spokesman said yesterday that Indian troops had killed 10 Pakistani soldiers and wounded several others while repulsing an attack. Pakistan said its troops had repulsed an unprovoked Indian attack across the truce line, and two of its soldiers had been killed and two were missing.
So far, India has refused to talk to Gen. Musharraf because it believes his government supports the violence in Kashmir.
"On the one hand, Pakistan says it is willing to participate in talks, on the other it continues to be deeply involved in violence, killings and cross-border terrorism," said Mr. Vajpayee on India's independence day Aug. 15. "The world knows who has sabotaged the peace efforts."
However, the prime minister kept alive the prospects of negotiations in the future, leading analysts to believe that there may be a chance of some sort of meeting in the United States.
But the future of Kashmir, the biggest issue between them, is too sensitive to be discussed right now, said foreign affairs analyst Amitabh Mattoo from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
Other topics that might be brought up under prodding from the United States include the threat of atomic war since each country set off nuclear tests in 1998.
"Hypothetically speaking, they could discuss the prior notification of a missile test, improvement of communications at the highest levels of military operations and carry on consultations on nuclear doctrines," Mr. Mattoo said.
But Pakistan has repeatedly stated that no dialogue is possible if it does not include the subject of Kashmir, and Niaz Naik, a former senior Pakistani diplomat, said there is too large a gap in perceptions on the nuclear issue between the two countries to make any headway in one sitting.
As things stand, it's unlikely that the two leaders will even come within a few feet of each other.
Says Mr. Mattoo: "Indian diplomats are very skillful at avoidance making sure that if a meeting is not to take place then Musharraf and Vajpayee will not even be walking through the corridors of the U.N. at the same time."
Ben Barber contributed to this article in Washington.

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