- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 28, 2002

NEW DELHI Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, concerned about a renewal of tensions, is pressuring India and Pakistan to open a dialogue on resolving their differences over the disputed border region of Kashmir.
Mr. Powell took his message to Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha last night and will make the same appeal today in a visit with President Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Before leaving India, he also planned to see Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
The U.S. delegation had no comment after the talks, which included an hourlong meeting between Mr. Powell and Mr. Sinha. Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said India is not satisfied with the progress so far after tensions reached a high point in the spring.
She said infiltration by Islamic militants into Indian-held Kashmir "has come down only marginally" during the past six weeks, notwithstanding promises by Gen. Musharraf to curb these activities permanently.
"We can't play games of diplomatic bluff on this," she said.
The fragility of the situation was underscored by an outbreak of violence in Kashmir as Mr. Powell was arriving in the Indian capital. Seven persons were killed in attacks in the Kashmir Valley yesterday, and Pakistani guns shelled Indian positions along the cease-fire line.
The visit is Mr. Powell's third to the subcontinent since October, all on Kashmir-related missions. He said he does not expect the trip to yield any breakthroughs.
Joining Mr. Powell at a photo session before their talks, Mr. Sinha said, "India has always held that if the necessary conditions for talks are created, we will have talks, but we do not think the necessary condition exists at present."
India and Pakistan have held summit meetings twice during the past three years. Both were followed by periods marked by confrontation.
Although he stressed the importance of reopening a dialogue, Mr. Powell told reporters en route to New Delhi that timing was critical.
"Will it be when the escalation goes down?" he asked. "Will it be when there is greater assurance that there's no cross-border infiltration? Will it be when the Kashmiri elections are over?"
Those elections are scheduled for September and October.
Mr. Powell said before his meeting that he planned to encourage Mr. Sinha to hold "free, open, fair, inclusive elections in Kashmir and to permit an international presence."
Mr. Sinha told CNN on Friday that the elections will be free. "There is no reason for anyone to question the democratic credentials of India," he said.
India and Pakistan have placed 1 million troops along their border, and a series of attacks by suspected Pakistan-based militants nearly pushed the country to a fourth war last month.
India accuses Pakistan of arming, training and funding the Islamic insurgents who have been fighting since 1989 for Indian-controlled Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan. More than 60,000 have died in the fighting in India's only predominantly Muslim state.
Pakistan says it provides only moral and diplomatic support to the guerrillas.
After his talks in Pakistan, Mr. Powell will travel to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines.


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