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June 12, 1999
Talks collapse amidst accusations, bitterness
George Iype in New Delhi
The foreign ministerial dialogue between India and Pakistan climaxed in a dead-end today. No breakthrough emerged from the talks between External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz to resolve the three-week-long conflict in Kargil.
The bilateral dialogue that had begun in a bitter atmosphere of accusations, claims and counter claims collapsed as expected. Pakistan rejected all the Indian demands to ease the escalating tension in Kashmir.
There was no friendliness in sight as both Singh and Aziz were ushered into the venue - Hyderabad House - without being even photographed together before or after their parleys.
The talks were held under the shadow of the torture and murder of six Indian soldiers and the release of a taped telephonic conversation between Pakistani Army chief General Parvez Musharraf and his deputy, Lt General Mohammed Aziz, by India.
Officials said the dialogue began with Singh bluntly telling Aziz that the armed intrusion and aggression committed by Pakistan across the Line of Control and especially in Kargil should stop immediately.
The Indian external affairs minister told the emissary from Islamabad that tension on the border had been deliberately created by Pakistan - particularly the Pakistani Army - and so the conflict could only be resolved after the restoration of status quo ante along the Line of Control.
Singh put four demands to Aziz. First, immediately withdraw the Muslim insurgents from Kashmir. Second, give up the demand for a fresh demarcation of the Line of Control. Third, punish those who are guilty of torturing, mutilating and killing the six Indian soldiers. Fourth, respect the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.
Singh made it very clear to Aziz at the outset that India cannot and will not link the Kashmir issue with Kargil because both are different.
He also submitted to Aziz the irrefutable evidence - the taped conversation between the Pakistani Army bosses -- to make the point that the infiltration in Kargil had been planned, masterminded and implemented by them.
Aziz heard out the Indian demands, only to reject them and deny all the charges.
He denied that Pakistan had sent terrorists into Kashmir or tortured the Indian soldiers.
The Pakistani minister stuck to the stand Islamabad has been embracing ever since the Kargil crisis erupted on May 26.
He also put forward the Pakistani point of view and said fresh military hostilities on the LoC can be controlled only if India: a) stops air strikes and ground operations in the Kargil hills; b) concedes the Pakistani point that the militants are Kashmiri 'freedom fighters'; c) allows for a fresh demarcation of the LoC, which he said is porous and exists only on maps.
Singh rejected all three proposals and the dialogue was over.
An external affairs ministry official later said "the talks were forced to end abruptly because there was absolutely no meeting ground on any issue and demand".
"It seems the dialogue only increased the blood pressures of both Singh and Aziz and heated up the bilateral tensions between India and Pakistan. It was nearly an angry exchange between Singh and Aziz and no diplomatic breakthrough is in sight now," the official told Rediff On The NeT.
Hours after the talks, both foreign ministers addressed the media separately to explain that they remain adamant on every issue that the Kargil flare-up has brought up.
The Indian minister said Pakistan is responsible for the aggression in Kargil and therefore guilty of "transgressing the territory of trust".
"We have reiterated that the sanctity and inviolability of the LoC, which is vital for the maintenance of peace and security, should be observed by both India and Pakistan," Singh observed.
He said the very gesture from India to sit across a negotiation table was "to build a relationship of peace, trust and confidence with Pakistan", adding that India would not stop the military operations in Kargil until the status quo ante is restored.
The Pakistani minister met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for 30 minutes and then told the reporters that the only way to cool the military hostilities in Kashmir is "to continue talking".
"I had no illusion of resolving the current difficulties in a day's visit to New Delhi," he said, stating that he has submitted a set of proposals to the Indian government to carry on with the dialogue.
"Our differences can be resolved only through peaceful discussions as unilateral demands and unfounded allegations can only lead to the escalation of tensions," he said, referring to the Indian demands, especially for the immediate withdrawal of Pakistani soldiers from Kargil.
Aziz said the main problem is not Kargil, but the unresolved issue of Kashmir, and indirectly accused India of whipping up a war-like hysteria.
External affairs ministry officials believe Pakistan deliberately wanted the dialogue to end in failure because Islamabad hopes the diplomatic disaster in New Delhi will help it internationalise the Kashmir issue.
As diplomacy has failed to defuse the crisis in Kargil, the possibility of a full-fledged war on the Line of Control is expected to drag the international community to force Pakistan from withdrawing its armed intruders from Kashmir and also to deter both countries from escalating the conflict.
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