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Can Diplomats Head Off War?



There may be no better time for nuclear enemies India and Pakistan to talk peace than at an Asian security conference. But India isn't ready to give diplomacy a chance, saying Pakistan supports terrorists bedeviling India.

"The fact is that the circumstances for a meeting are not right, so no matter where we are, we're not going to meet and it's as simple as that," Omar Abdullah, the deputy Indian foreign minister Omar Abdullah, said Monday.

After arriving in the Kazakh capital for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf reiterated his readiness to meet with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Asked by reporters about his conditions for such talks, Musharraf said, "You need to ask this question of Prime Minister Vajpayee. What are his conditions? I don't have any conditions."

But Vajpayee so far has refused to give ground, demanding that he first see proof that Pakistan has withdrawn support from Islamic militants and stopped their cross-border incursions into India's portion of Kashmir.

CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that while Pakistan is cracking down on cross-border terror, it isn't dismantling terrorist camps, as India demands. Pakistan says, that's what negotiations are for.

"We believe that the only way of resolving the dispute between India and Pakistan is through initiating a dialogue process," Musharraf said.

The two leaders last exchanged a cold handshake and a few words in Nepal in January.

So the presidents of Russia and China will plunge this week into the international effort to head off war.

Vajpayee and Musharraf met separately with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on the eve of the conference dominated by efforts to bring the two nuclear-armed nations into face to face talks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin were scheduled to meet separately, but nearly simultaneously, with Musharraf and Vajpayee on Tuesday, ensuring that even if India and Pakistan refuse one-on-one talks, their messages will be delivered through intermediaries. Putin arrived in Kazakhstan early Tuesday.

The mediation attempts appeared to be coordinated among the United States, Russia and China. When Putin extended his invitation to the two leaders to talk in Almaty, President Bush was at his side.

NATO leaders also took the unusual step of appointing Putin as the envoy to convey the alliance's concerns about war to Musharraf and Vajpayee.

Meanwhile, violence continued in Kashmir on Monday. At least eight civilians were killed and 23 injured as Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged heavy artillery and machine-gun fire along their frontier.

Also, Norway on Monday advised its citizens against traveling to India and Pakistan because of the tensions. Similar warnings have been issued by the United States, at least 12 other countries and the United Nations.

In an American bid to defuse tensions, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is expected in the region this weekend and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is due in Pakistan on Thursday and India on Friday.

Without mentioning Pakistan by name, Vajpayee said he agreed with Nazarbayev on how to combat terrorism in South Asia, which he blamed on "cross-border infiltrations." However, he did not elaborate other than to express "faith that there would be no encouragement to those elements who believe in terrorism or religious extremism."

India says Islamic militants crossing the frontier from Pakistan have carried out terror attacks, including deadly assaults on the Indian Parliament in December and an Indian army base in Kashmir last month. The latter left 34 dead, mostly wives and children of army officers.

But Pakistani Information Minister Nisar Memon insisted Monday that the militants had not come from his nation's part of Kashmir.

"We deny any such camps to be there and that there is any action against India, cross-border terrorism. We have increased our own vigilance on the Line of Control," he said, referring to a 1972 cease-fire line dividing the Himalayan region between India and Pakistan. Both nations claim all of Kashmir, and have fought two wars over the dispute.

"We will not tolerate any acts of violence against India. We will not allow our soil to be used for terrorist activities against any other country," Memon said, noting that Pakistan, too, had suffered from terrorism.

Foreign leaders pressed the Indian and Pakistani leaders to tone down their warring rhetoric and meet in Almaty.

Russia has been a close ally of India since the Soviet era but has had a troubled relationship with Pakistan, accusing it a few years ago of aiding Chechen rebels. That background came to the fore again Monday as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov assailed Islamabad's alleged aid to terrorists.

The Indian Defense Ministry tried to calm international concern about the danger that the conflict could erupt into nuclear war.

"The government makes it clear that India does not believe in the use of nuclear weapons. Neither does it visualize that it will be used by any other country," the ministry said in a statement released Monday in New Delhi. "India categorically rules out the use of nuclear weapons."

Speaking on Russia's state-run RTR television Monday night, Musharraf said his country's nuclear arsenal was in safe hands.

"Let me assure the whole world that our nuclear assets are in extremely safe hands and there is no vulnerability of these at all," he said.

Russia criticized Pakistan's recent series of missile tests.

"Against the background of the conflict (with India), Pakistan's testing of nuclear rockets was a provocative gesture," Interfax news agency quoted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying.

Sixteen nations are taking part in the three-day Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia. The group includes Russia, China, Afghanistan, Israel, Iran, Turkey and the Palestinians. The United States, Australia and Japan have observer status.

Copyright 2002 CBS Worldwide Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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