- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2002

The United States and other Western powers are negotiating a deal with India and Pakistan that calls for a massive anti-terrorist operation inside Pakistan and a gradual withdrawal of all Indian troops from the border, official and diplomatic sources said.
Under the proposed deal, Pakistan would shut down all religious organizations that have their own militias, are involved in jihad, or holy war, or are propagating jihad as a means for solving political disputes.
This would include groups operating in both the Indian and Pakistani sides of the disputed Kashmir region. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned five militant groups after a Jan. 12 speech in which he announced his policy for tackling religious fanaticism in his country.
U.S. officials including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell have acknowledged publicly that Gen. Musharraf has fulfilled his promise to help fight al Qaeda and Taliban extremists in Afghanistan and is helping trace their remnants in Pakistan.
Privately, however, they complain that he has not been as enthusiastic in curbing the Muslim extremists who carry out cross-border attacks in Kashmir.
"We understand that it is a difficult task. The groups cannot be asked to pack up and go home overnight. But has he done absolute 100 percent to curb the militants operating in Kashmir? No, we don't think so," said a senior U.S. official who spoke to United Press International on the condition of anonymity.
South Asian diplomats in Washington said the proposed operation against the militants would be tied to a gradual withdrawal of Indian troops from the border. According to these sources, India is willing to consider such a move if the United States and other Western powers guarantee Pakistan will stop all cross-border infiltration, disband all Kashmiri groups and dismantle all training camps for the militants.
To achieve this objective, India wants to put Pakistan on a two-month notice, diplomatic sources said. During this period, India would keep a watch on Pakistan and, if convinced that the neighbor is "matching its words with deeds," as Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said, New Delhi would start the withdrawal of troops from the border.
Western negotiators, however, said that while they may be able to convince Gen. Musharraf to act against the militants, "to be put on notice by a rival nation will be too humiliating for him and will definitely stir a violent protest at home."
But from the Indian point of view, they said, it would be difficult for Mr. Vajpayee to go back to his people without appearing to have achieved his main goal the end of militant activities in Kashmir after having moved hundreds of thousands of troops to the border.
Also, a public commitment to Indian demands would amount to an open acknowledgement that Pakistan was sending militants to Kashmir and has agreed to stop them, the sources said.
"How can they publicly acknowledge to dismantle the training camps when they say that there are no training camps in Pakistan or Pakistani Kashmir?" a senior Western official in Islamabad said.
Instead, Western negotiators are believed to have suggested that the United States and other Western powers get such commitments privately from Pakistan and stay engaged in the process until Islamabad fulfills these promises.
While apparently receptive to most of these suggestions, Islamabad wants the proposed operation against the terrorists tied to simultaneous withdrawal of troops from the border, sources said.
Harbaksh Singh Nanda in New Delhi and Shahid Iqbal in Islamabad contributed to this article.


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