The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Border vigil to pile pressure

New Delhi, Oct. 16: India today took the first step towards de-escalation by announcing that it will “redeploy” its troops posted along the border with Pakistan.

But to keep up the pressure on the Pervez Musharraf regime, Delhi made it clear that “the vigil in Jammu and Kashmir” will continue and the troops withdrawal will not affect the Line of Control.

The signal from Delhi is clear: now that it has taken the initiative, world leaders should put enough pressure on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism and create an atmosphere conducive to resuming dialogue. Till that happens, India will not return to the talks table.

The decision came after the Cabinet Committee on Security meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister, reviewed the recommendations of the national security advisory board and the national security council that preceded it.

The pullback decision is aimed at satisfying the international community. But by making it clear that there will be no change in the situation along the LoC, Delhi has put the ball back in the court of the US and other key Western powers who have been urging the neighbours to bring down the temperature in South Asia.

Foreign office consultations between foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal and US assistant secretary of state for political affairs Mark Grossman and the Asia Security Dialogue, scheduled to start in Delhi tomorrow, will focus on the Indian decision.

Though it is not being admitted in public, Indian leaders over the past few months had indicated to major world players that the troops build-up was meant not only to check cross-border infiltration, but also to ensure peaceful elections in Kashmir.

Delhi continues to argue that the Pakistani President has not kept his promise to stop cross-border-terrorism. But the public posturing notwithstanding, India is aware that it has to take the initiative towards de-escalation now that the elections in Kashmir are over. Though the decision to “redeploy” the troops from the international border is unilateral, India expects the international community to exert pressure on Pakistan to abandon its policy of hostility.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said: “The climate for dialogue can be created only if Pakistan jettisons cross-border terrorism, including its sponsorship.”

“I don’t believe that the situation has changed in this regard,” she added. Rao said India’s views have been conveyed to the US and other key countries who have been pressing Delhi for resumption of dialogue with Islamabad.

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