The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi stresses on LoC terror

New Delhi, Sept. 20: India today maintained that it was not impressed even if infiltration across the Line of Control came down substantially, as the core issue was “ending terrorism permanently”.

“The core issue is that of terrorism and not infiltration,” said foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. He also made it clear that talking about resuming the India-Pakistan dialogue at this juncture is “premature”, as is the possibility of withdrawing Indian troops from the border.

“We don’t have any confidence in Pervez Musharraf,” Sibal pointed out when asked whether India had lost confidence and trust in the Pakistani President. “To ask such a question is to presume that we had trust in him in the first place.”

Sibal argued that it was relevant to ask whether the international community had trust in Musharraf, as he had given the pledge of ending cross-border terrorism and infiltration across the LoC to the Americans and its western allies.

Much of what the foreign secretary said goes to show that, at this point, Delhi would not take any chance that could jeopardise peaceful conduct of the Kashmir elections. According to South Block, if a willingness is now expressed to return to the talks table, it could encourage Islamabad to reactivate the terrorist groups to carry out attacks to thwart the democratic process in the state.

The US and other key members of the international community are hopeful that once the four-phased elections in Jammu and Kashmir are conducted peacefully and in a free and fair manner, the South Asian neighbours could resume negotiations to normalise relations and help ease tension in the region. However, India has decided to maintain pressure on the Musharraf regime and extract the maximum mileage from it on terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Asked whether India was thinking of withdrawing its troops, Sibal said: “I will not like to comment prematurely on this. Let October 8 (the last phase of elections in Kashmir) come.”

The foreign secretary pointed out that nothing in the past few weeks suggests that Pakistan was taking steps to fulfil its promise of giving up terrorism against India. “If the Kashmir elections are peaceful, then the credit should not go to Pakistan,” he said.

Asked whether India would consider “harsh measures” if Pakistan failed to fulfil its promises, he said: “We are going on with our strategy. Our political and diplomatic efforts will continue.”

Sibal said the pressure of the international community on Pakistan to end infiltration “seems to be working, but has not worked enough” in seeing that this was ended permanently. He added that stopping infiltration was intended to be the “first step” towards ending cross-border terrorism.

The foreign secretary argued that it was never intended to be a “self-contained one-time sort of action” to clear all obstacles for dialogue.

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