- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

ALMATY, Kazakhstan Russian and Kazakh diplomats are working feverishly to broker some kind of peace negotiation between the leaders of India and Pakistan, who will be in Kazakhstan today and tomorrow for a pan-Asian summit dedicated to regional peacekeeping.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who arrived in Almaty yesterday, dashed hopes for a meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, telling reporters aboard his plane there was "no such plan."
But reports persisted that some kind of "proximity" talks may take place, perhaps through the mediation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who would welcome a diplomatic victory after a long period of meeting U.S. goals.
"Everybody is trying hard" to find a way to get the two nuclear-armed powers to pull back from the brink of war, said Kazakh Vice Foreign Minister Kairat Abusseitov.
A reduction of Indian-Pakistani tensions also would be a major coup for Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at a time when he is under international scrutiny for his tough treatment of political opponents.
The 16-nation summit was called to formalize the creation of a new Asian security organization roughly comparable to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an idea first broached by Mr. Nazarbayev in a speech to the United Nations in 1992.
For the new peacemaking body to resolve an international crisis at its founding meeting would lend legitimacy to the new organization to be called the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and to Mr. Nazarbayev.
Violence continued yesterday along the India-Pakistan border, where more than 1 million soldiers have been massed with tanks and missiles for months.
News agencies reported exchanges of mortar and machine-gun fire and quoted officials as saying four Pakistanis and an Indian woman had been killed in the disputed Kashmir region.
India said eight civilians were hurt when Pakistani troops began a mortar attack on a village. Pakistan said four soldiers were injured by Indian shelling in nearby Punjab province.
In Almaty, the former foreign ministry building, a sleepy place since the capital was moved to Astana several years ago, was a beehive of activity as Kazakh diplomats conferred with their Indian, Russian and Pakistani counterparts.
China also was expected to play a role. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, speaking during a visit to Ukraine, said he was "confident [Mr. Putin] and the Chinese president [Jiang Zemin] will be able to be dissuade" India and Pakistan from escalating their conflict.
Gen. Musharraf, who was in Tajikistan before arriving today in Kazakhstan's commercial capital, said yesterday that he had proposed a meeting with Mr. Vajpayee several times and still hoped to "establish a peaceful dialogue."
But if the Indian leader does not want to talk, "I think that in the future there is no point in raising this question again," he said.
India's ambassador to Kazakhstan, Vidya Sagar Verma, meanwhile told Agence France-Presse there "would be no talks or secret meetings at any level" between officials from the Indian and Pakistani delegations.
Nevertheless, Mr. Putin has scheduled talks with Gen. Musharraf and perhaps with Mr. Vajpayee, and there were reports that the Russian president and Mr. Nazarbayev would serve as intermediaries between the Indian and Pakistani leaders as they sat in different rooms.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev declined to comment on those reports, saying only that "there will be bilateral consultations and meetings within the framework of CICA here in Almaty."
"As far as Kazakhstan is concerned, we, being a host country, are ready to arrange everything necessary for holding either bilateral or multilateral meetings within the framework of CICA," he said.
A breakthrough "will be very important for Kazakhstan because it will strengthen our record as a peaceful country that is really interested in enhancing security in the region."
Mr. Vajpayee is staying at the Ankara Hotel, where the signing ceremony creating CICA will take place tomorrow morning. He held a private dinner there last night, with no foreign participation, Indian officials said.
Gen. Musharraf arrives this afternoon and will be staying at the Hyatt, about a mile away.
Kazakh officials noted that Mr.Vajpayee's decision to stay an extra day, leaving on Wednesday instead of tomorrow afternoon, is a positive sign.
They also noted that Mr. Vajpayee will officially be on a bilateral visit until this afternoon, according to Mr. Tokaev. Thus, Mr. Nazarbayev will have an extra day to persuade his guest to change his mind.
Gen. Musharraf, like the other heads of state and delegation, is due to leave tomorrow afternoon.
The other founding CICA members are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Iran, China, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Ten other nations, including the United States, Australia and Japan, will have observer status.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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