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India Eases War Rhetoric, Says Dialogue Is Possible

Asia: Premier's remarks come as Pakistan looks to a regional gathering to help lessen tensions.

January 02, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW DELHI — In a cooling down of the war rhetoric between two South Asian rivals, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said Tuesday that India would be open to dialogue with Pakistan if it shed its "anti-India mentality."

Despite a heavy exchange of gunfire overnight across the border of the disputed Kashmir region and deadly attacks by suspected Islamic militants, India and Pakistan upheld their New Year's tradition of exchanging lists of their civilian nuclear facilities, traded every year to prevent attack on the installations. And India eased a new ban on overflights to allow two Pakistani planes to enter its airspace.

Meanwhile, Pakistan said a gathering of South Asian leaders this week in Nepal could bring some easing of tensions, even though India has said it will not hold any direct talks on the crisis at the summit.

Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will attend the Friday-Sunday meeting of seven regional leaders, and the two countries' foreign ministers will be at a preliminary gathering today and Thursday. A Vajpayee spokesman, Ashok Tandon, said that "no meeting is planned with Pakistan at any level."

But a Pakistani government spokesman, Ashfaq Ahmad Gondal, said a meeting of foreign ministers "cannot be ruled out."

The crisis was sparked by a Dec. 13 attack on India's Parliament. India blames Pakistan for the attack and has said no dialogue is possible until the nation stops supporting terrorists in Kashmir.

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