- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2000

Tension in South Asia

Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi has taken her government's complaints about India directly to the readers of a major Indian news magazine.

In a hard-hitting article in India Outlook, Miss Lodhi criticized Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, accusing him of increasing tensions in South Asia.

However, she added that her government is ready to live peaceably with India if Mr. Vajpayee agrees to control nuclear weapons and allow for a referendum on the future of Kashmir.

India and Pakistan exploded nuclear devices two years ago. The two countries have fought three wars over the divided Kashmir region.

Miss Lodhi said Mr. Vajpayee is attempting to isolate Pakistan's military government internationally.

"During Vajpayee's U.S. visit, the Indian rhetoric against Pakistan reached new heights. But [India] is overplaying its hand," she wrote in the magazine.

"On Kashmir, India appears to be postulating its policies on the presumption of international endorsement for its position. But it is a measure of India's unreal expectations that Vajpayee's entourage was said to have been rudely surprised by President Clinton's factual observation that Kashmir has been at the core of difficulties between India and Pakistan," she wrote.

"Dialogue between Pakistan and India is indispensable to resolve the Kashmir dispute," Miss Lodhi wrote. "The longer the Kashmir dispute continues to fester, the greater the risks in a nuclearized environment in South Asia.

"The present course of the Indian government is exacerbating tensions in South Asia."

Any Indian threat against Pakistan "will be met by firmness," but Pakistan is prepared to be "responsive," if India "demonstrates a readiness to change course," she wrote.

Pakistan is ready to offer a "no-war pact," she wrote.

"Such an agreement could be the culmination of efforts to address and resolve the Kashmir dispute, control and balance conventional armed forces and implement measures for mutual nuclear and missile restraint," she added.

Facing Agent Orange

The U.S. ambassador to Vietnam yesterday insisted Washington is "not hiding" from the dispute over Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant the United States used during the Vietnam War.

Ambassador Douglas "Pete" Peterson, following criticism from the Vietnamese government, told reporters in Hanoi that the United States is working with Vietnam to conduct research into claims that the herbicide has caused a range of ailments, including physical and mental birth defects.

The research project "is going to be developed over the next few months, I assume, and it will be a very big effort on both sides," he said.

With President Clinton planning a visit to Vietnam next month, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry has been raising criticism of the U.S. conduct of the war. Hanoi has called the war an act of "aggression" and demanded that Washington deal with the consequences of Agent Orange, which was sprayed to clear guerrilla enclaves.

Mr. Peterson, a former fighter pilot who was taken prisoner during the war, said, "No one is hiding this issue of the herbicides that were used during earlier years, in the 1960s and 1970s, no one's hiding it.

"It's simply a matter of how to work with the Vietnamese to address that, and we're doing that with the research effort we've talked about for some time, and now it's become a reality."

Croatian envoy leaving

Miomir Zuzul is leaving Washington after nearly five years as Croatia's ambassador here. But he is not returning to the Balkans.

He has accepted a teaching position at Princeton University, where his daughter Ivana is a freshman. Mr. Zuzul will join the Center for International Studies as a senior visiting fellow at the university's Woodrow Wilson School next month.

Mr. Zuzul, who presented his diplomatic credentials to President Clinton in February 1996, described his service here as "thrilling."

In a message to friends, he said his family has already settled in "the new environment."

"Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the experiences and encounters we made over the past years," he said.

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