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June 12, 1999


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Jaswant-Aziz talks end in frosty deadlock

Further talks are necessary, says Aziz

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India today rejected Pakistan's proposal for "partial de-escalation" of its military operations in the Kargil sector to evict intruders as the talks between the two countries to defuse tension in the area ended in a deadlock.

"We are for total de-escalation, not partial. But Pakistan will have to remove the factor, which has caused the escalation. That will be most effective," said External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh at a press conference this evening after his 70-minute meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz.

Singh asserted that there is no alternative other than for Pakistan to pull out its troops and extremists from the Kargil sector and respect the sanctity and inviolability of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

The talks, held at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, were officially described as "serious and businesslike", but off the record officials said the atmosphere was frosty. The two foreign ministers did not even shake hands for the benefit of the assembled photographers and cameramen. Moreover, no further talks have been scheduled.

The Pakistani minister was given all the evidence India has of the involvement of his country in the intrusion into Kargil, including the taped telephone conversation between the Pakistani Army chief and his deputy, but he denied each and every piece of it.

He repeated the Pakistani position that the Line of Control is not clearly demarcated, which stand was rejected forcefully by Jaswant Singh as "a desperate attempt to rewrite 27 years of history".

Singh said he had conveyed to Aziz the nation's sense of outrage over the torture and murder of six Indian soldiers in custody. Aziz did not deny the torture "when it was raised twice at the talks".

But addressing a separate press conference before flying back to Islamabad, he denied the involvement of Pakistan in the killing of the soldiers.

Singh also drew Aziz's attention to the involvement of Pakistani soldiers in the Kargil intrusion. But the latter said his country's army is in no way involved in the conflict.

Asked if he had accepted Aziz's proposal to visit Islamabad to continue the dialogue, a grim-looking Singh retorted that it is now up to Pakistan to respond to India's demand that the intruders vacate Indian territory.

"We do not have the luxury of engaging in talks about talks. To classify it as a dialogue will be a misnomer," he said, adding that India would continue its operation in Kargil to push the intruders back across the Line of Control.

Asked whether the talks would affect the operations of the Indian armed forces in the Kargil sector, Singh said, "There are no conditions and it will not affect air and ground operations."

He ridiculed Aziz's questioning of the validity of the LoC, saying it was a boundary flowing out of the Simla Agreement of 1972, which had clearly delineated it. "It has not been questioned for 27 years. Questioning it now is an untenuous attempt... This is unacceptable. The sanctity of the LoC must be restored and respected."

He said he had made it clear to his Pakistani counterpart that the tension created by Islamabad calls for the restoration of the status quo ante.

He also demanded that those responsible for torturing to death the Indian soldiers be brought to justice for the barbarian act.

Asked if India would undo the intrusion by military means, now that the talks have failed, the external affairs minister said, "It has to be done by military or diplomatic means, whichever is possible first."

On Aziz's suggestion that the two countries discuss all outstanding issues in totality and not the Kargil issue alone, Singh said a composite dialogue process already existed, but it was abandoned by Pakistan through its misadventure in Kargil.

Singh did not agree with suggestions that the two countries were on the warpath or that India had violated the spirit of the Lahore Declaration by its action in Kargil.

Asked whether Aziz demanded the deployment of a United Nations observer group in the Kargil sector, Singh said there was not even a mention of the words "UN group".

Asked how long India would await Pakistan's response to its demand to pull out the intruders, he said the onus is on Islamabad now.

He said India had nothing to do with reports from Pakistan that there was no intrusion and the problem was an offshoot of the militancy in the Kashmir valley.

He described as a "suspicious proposition" a Pakistani statement that the Indian government had over-reacted to the situation in Kargil.

Further talks are necessary, says Aziz

Aziz on his part said Pakistan had made certain suggestions to de-escalate the tension and it was for India to respond.

Islamabad also claimed that its soldiers were in no way involved in the conflict.

Stressing the need for more dialogue, Aziz told a crowded press conference: "I suggested that despite our differences over the origin and nature of the present tension, we share an interest in defusing the situation and de-escalating tensions by bringing about an appropriate atmosphere in which we can effectively address each other's concerns."

Briefing reporters about the outcome of his talks with Singh and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee earlier in the day, Aziz declined to spell out the suggestions he had made. "It will not be proper to divulge anything now as the Indian government is still considering the suggestions."

Describing the talks as "frank and useful", he said the situation could only be remedied through peaceful discussions based on mutual respect for each other's concerns and for this purpose a visit by Jaswant Singh to Islamabad was expected. "They [the disputes] cannot be resolved by unilateral demands, unfounded allegations or the escalation of tensions."

He said both Pakistan and India have a huge stake in restoring the "spirit of Lahore" and moving towards a new era in their relations in accordance with the wishes of the people. But this cannot happen by whipping up a "war-like hysteria" and hatred against each other or through threats and coercion. "Mutual trust must be based on mutual respect."

Saying that he had no illusions about resolving the current difficulties in a day's visit, Aziz, however, refused to be pessimistic. "Both our prime ministers are men of peace," he said.

Asked about the torture of the six Indian soldiers, he said the allegation was baseless and the bodies might have been "affected by bad weather" as they were lying there for a long time.

He denied that Pakistan had on any occasion violated the LoC. But the problem of proper demarcation of the LoC in the hilly areas has been resulting in certain incidents from both side of the border from time to time.

Aziz suggested that the two countries discuss the LoC issue so that it can be properly demarcated as envisaged under the Simla Agreement.

Tara Shankar Sahay and UNI

Pakistan asked to pull out troops

The Kargil Crisis

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