- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Diplomatic offensive

As their countries prepare for war, Indian and Pakistani diplomats here are making their case with the Bush administration, which is trying to prevent a wider conflict between the two South Asian nuclear rivals.

Indian Defense Secretary Yogendra Narain met yesterday with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and officials at the National Security Council. He was accompanied by Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh.

Today Mr. Narain, the second-highest ranking official in the defense ministry, begins three days of meetings on U.S.-Indian defense issues.

Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi met last week with Christina Rocca, the assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, immediately after Mrs. Rocca returned from the region.

Indian and Pakistani diplomats say the mood at their embassies is businesslike, as they read daily reports of clashes between the countries' armies in the dispute over Kashmir. The two countries have fought three wars against each other, two over claims to the Indian part of Kashmir.

India holds Pakistan responsible for guerrilla attacks in Kashmir, which India blames on Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Pakistan denies those charges and supports self-determination for the majority Muslim region.

"We are hopeful the United States will work the issue from both sides, and, in the end, better sense will prevail," said Pakistani Embassy spokesman Asad Hayauddin. "Saber rattling is no way to get anything done."

He said Miss Lodhi is a veteran diplomat who can handle a crisis.

"The ambassador is used to crises. She has managed them before," he said.

"We in the embassy are concerned," he added, "but we are 3,000 miles away. Our focus is on the State Department."

Indian Embassy spokesman Navtej Sarna said, "India's diplomatic efforts aim to sensitize the administration to our cause. Pakistan has to be asked to restrain the terrorists."

Mr. Sarna said Pakistan can stop the infiltration into Kashmir because the border is heavily patrolled.

"People can't just walk across the border," he said.

Despite promises from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, "we have not seen any letup in cross-border infiltration," Mr. Sarna said.

He cited 300 "incidents of violence" in April that killed more than 300 people and 49 in the first six days of this month that killed 70. One terrorist raid on an Indian army base killed the wives and children of the soldiers stationed there.

East Timor relations

The United States has opened diplomatic relations with East Timor, which celebrated its independence from Indonesia on Monday.

"We are pleased to announce the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the United States and the Democratic Republic of East Timor," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said this week.

"The United States looks forward to working with the people and government of East Timor to foster the growth of democracy and prosperity in the first nation of the new millennium."

He said President Bush will soon nominate an ambassador to head the U.S. Embassy in Dili, the capital of the South Pacific nation.

Until then, U.S. diplomat Shari Villaros will serve as charge d'affaires. She was recently the economic officer at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia.

East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999, but pro-Indonesia militias killed hundreds and displaced about 500,000 from their homes after the referendum. The United Nations provided peacekeepers and helped the region prepare for independence.

Visa security

Visitors and immigrants will pay more to enter the United States next month, partially for security reasons.

Non-immigrant visas will increase to $65 from $45, and immigrant visas will rise to $335 from $325. Passport services are due for review in August.

The price rise reflects the cost of services plus the cost of increased security measures such as machines that can read the visas electronically and check names for security risks, the State Department said.

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