|Saturday, 10 May 2003|
Armitage sees beginnings of India-Pakistan dialogue
ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI, Friday (Reuters,AFP) U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he saw the beginnings of a dialogue emerging between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan that made him cautiously optimistic.
But Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee dampened hopes of a breakthrough by rejecting a suggestion by Islamabad that both countries give up nuclear weapons, saying India's security concerns were not limited to Pakistan.
"This proposal is not acceptable to us," Vajpayee told parliament. "We are not just worried about Pakistan. We are also worried about the situation in countries around us." In another blow to recent peace overtures, at least 28 people were reported to have been killed in a surge of violence in divided Kashmir - the biggest obstacle to a rapprochement between India and Pakistan.
Armitage nevertheless told a news conference after talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad he was encouraged by recent exchanges between the two countries' prime ministers, the first high-level contacts in over a year.
Asked about Pakistan's proposal to scrap nuclear weapons, Armitage said a series of political and economic confidence-building measures were needed before the countries took such far-reaching steps on arms control. "What you are seeing, I hope, is the beginning of a process..." he added. Armitage, who will go to Afghanistan then India on Friday, said Washington aimed to ease rapprochement between India and Pakistan, but was not applying pressure.
Shortly before Armitage landed in Islamabad on Wednesday, India said it had hoped Pakistan would do more to end what it calls cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. Armitage said infiltration across Kashmir's line of control by Islamic guerrillas and violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir appeared to have fallen in the past year and added: "President Musharraf gave absolute assurance that there was nothing happening across the line of control, there were no camps in Azad (Pakistani) Kashmir and if there were camps, they would be gone tomorrow."
Meanwhile peace moves by India and Pakistan have brought hope to hundreds of thousands of people living on the Indian Kashmir border, of at last being able to live safely without getting caught in gunfire.
Whenever tensions escalate between the neighbours, those living along the border suffer as soldiers routinely let loose artillery hitting thatched huts or even farmers working in their fields.
Produced by Lake House