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India Sets Conditions for Talks

Conflict: Pakistan must stop terrorist infiltrations in Kashmir before any negotiations can start, foreign minister says.

January 14, 2002|PAUL WATSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW DELHI — Telling Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to back up his words with action, India said Sunday that its neighbor must stop terrorist infiltrations before talks can begin on easing a dangerous military standoff.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh cautiously welcomed Gen. Musharraf's promise Saturday that Pakistan's government will neither support terrorists nor allow them to use its territory to attack anywhere else in the world.

But Singh insisted that Musharraf "must move purposefully" to end cross-border terrorism, including strikes launched from bases inside areas of the disputed territory of Kashmir that are under Pakistan's control. Only then, he said, can the two nuclear powers begin negotiations to end the crisis.

Fighters still secretly cross into Indian-controlled territory in the Himalayan region each day, Singh claimed. And while he acknowledged that Musharraf needs time to show results, he would not say how long India is willing to wait.

"What I've said is, 'Between the declaration of intent, and the implementation of what you have declared, let there be the least possible time,' " Singh told a news conference.

"The earlier it is implemented, the earlier both India and Pakistan can move toward engaging in purposeful dialogue on all issues, including on [the region of] Jammu and Kashmir. But we do wish to see the results of what he has stated, and action on the ground."

Musharraf should start, Singh told reporters here, "by stopping all infiltrations across the Line of Control," a 1972 cease-fire boundary that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

In his speech Saturday, Musharraf declared that "no organization will be allowed to perpetuate terrorism in the garb of the Kashmiri cause," and he banned two Pakistani-based groups that India has blamed for a Dec. 13 attack on its Parliament.

However, he said Pakistan will continue to provide "moral and diplomatic" support for groups that Pakistan has long considered legitimate freedom fighters but that India sees as terrorists.

Two Groups Banned

Previous Pakistani governments have insisted that they provide only this nonmilitary support to Kashmiri separatists. India, however, accuses Pakistan's military of secretly training and arming the rebel fighters and providing covering fire so they can slip into Indian-controlled territory.

Musharraf banned Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed but didn't explicitly accept India's claim that they were responsible for the Dec. 13 assault, which killed 14 people, including the five gunmen, who India says were Pakistani citizens.

Singh said Musharraf must make sure that the groups' "members do not continue activities under other names," and he insisted that other militias supported by Pakistan must also be stopped.

The Harkat Moujahedeen, which Musharraf did not mention Saturday, appeared on the State Department's list of world terrorist organizations in 2000, and India says the group still has training camps in Pakistani-controlled territory.

The Hezb-ul-Moujahedeen claims to have 20,000 members; its leader, Syed Salahuddin, also known as Yousuf Shah, is wanted in India on terrorism charges.

Although Musharraf did not refer to either of those groups in his speech, Singh left no doubt that India wants them shut down too.

If terrorist organizations continue to operate in any part of Pakistan, including the areas of Kashmir under its control, "they are directly violating the instructions of the president of Pakistan and defying exactly what he has said," the Indian foreign minister maintained.

India's government is suspicious that Musharraf is making a tactical move by banning extremist groups but has not yet made a strategic policy shift away from supporting a guerrilla war in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, one that frequently targets civilians.

In the early 1990s, Pakistan's then-prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, ordered a sharp reduction in clandestine support for the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, which wants full independence for the disputed territory. But according to a senior Indian intelligence source interviewed last week, groups fighting to merge the territory with Pakistan got backing instead.

The Al Badr Moujahedeen, another militia battling to end Indian rule in Kashmir, and Lashkar-e-Taiba were quoted Sunday as vowing to continue their armed struggle despite police raids on their offices. Members of the two groups were among more than 1,500 Islamic militants rounded up in the last few days, Pakistani police and media said today.

Indian security forces, meanwhile, said they killed two knife-wielding men who tried to attack guards Sunday at a Border Security Force camp. The men, who were carrying Dutch passports, arrived in New Delhi on Dec. 27 and headed to Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, police said.

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