- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

Leaders of South Asia's two nuclear-armed giants, India and Pakistan, are squaring off in the press in advance of their first summit Sunday in Agra, India, better known for its temple to love, the Taj Mahal.
Avoiding a nuclear war is driving the meeting, say some sources.
"We have to be mindful that both countries have been at each other's throats and have nuclear weapons," said a senior U.S. official. "The conflict could get out of hand or they could have accidents."
Pakistani military strongman Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who appointed himself president a few weeks ago, says he wants only to discuss Pakistan's claim to Kashmir, the picturesque fruit-rich valley turned into a blood bath by a Muslim separatist movement since 1989.
Indian nationalist Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee blames Pakistan for fueling the Kashmir conflict and warns that letting Kashmiris vote on independence or joining Pakistan is a non-starter.
He wants to discuss security of the nuclear weapons each side has revealed in 1998 tests, conventional forces, tension reduction, terrorism, hot lines, trade, visas, water and other issues.
Kashmir "is not the core issue," Indian Foreign Minister Jasawant Singh said yesterday, repeating Indian insistence it alone has sovereignty over Kashmir.
Indian political leaders also have announced they will boycott a tea party tomorrow at Pakistan's embassy in New Delhi with Gen. Musharraf because the latter has invited separatist Kashmiri leaders of the Hurriyat Conference.
Expectations for the Indo-Pakistani summit hardly could be much lower.
At most, officials hope the summit will lead to a resumption of some sort of dialogue between the leaders of India's 1 billion people and the 140 million Pakistanis, violently separated at the birth of both countries in 1947.
Gen. Musharraf, speaking on state television Wednesday, said: "I go [to India] with all seriousness to initiate a process of movement toward the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
"The entire world's attention is focused on this dialogue. So I only hope that we achieve progress in the dialogue toward resolution of the core dispute of Kashmir."
The U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, "I have no reason to think that a breakthrough is likely.
"Musharraf continues to insist that there can be no progress in other areas unless Kashmir is addressed. But there is no indication Musharraf is interested in making a deal on Kashmir.
"And there is a question as to whether he has the power" to make a compromise on Kashmir, given the deep emotional commitment in Pakistan to winning Kashmir away from India, the official said.
"That's why I don't think a breakthrough is possible."
The president of the Pakistan-American Congress, Nisar Chaudhry, said that "neither side can risk a backlash" by radicals at home by appearing to be weak.
The deputy chief of Pakistan's embassy in Washington, Zamir Akram, said the summit is unlikely to end the state of near war that has dominated most of the past half century in South Asia.
"We are realistic, and it is best to have modest expectations instead of expecting a major breakthrough," Mr. Akram said in an interview in his embassy office in a turret overlooking Massachusetts Avenue.
"It's hard to expect five decades of distrust to be washed away in one meeting. At best, the summit may put a dialogue in place to discuss Kashmir and other issues."
U.S. officials were surprised when Mr. Vajpayee invited Gen. Musharraf to a meeting in India, the Brookings Institution said in a statement.
Anger remains deep in India because an earlier Vajpayee summit with Pakistan in 1998 was followed by a Pakistani incursion at Kargil, Kashmir, that killed close to 1,000 Indian troops.
The fighting in Kargil, which began after both sides tested nuclear weapons in May 1998, ended after President Clinton pressured Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to withdraw during a July 4, 1999, meeting in Washington.
Mr. Sharif later was overthrown by Gen. Musharraf in a coup.
Some Pakistani journalists have broken a taboo by writing that it is apparent India will never relinquish Kashmir for fear it would spark other ethnic separatist movements inside India.
They proposed that the Line of Control dividing Kashmir become an international border and that India grant some autonomy to the mainly Muslim inhabitants of its portion.
However, Mr. Akram said Pakistan's government does not accept such a view.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide