With the international community backing it to the hilt, a tough-talking India today put the onus on Pakistan to defuse the tension along the Line of Control by recalling the intruders in Kargil.
Pakistan made the usual noises about not being involved in the incursion and said the chances of further escalation along the LoC do not ??seem very strong??.
Refuting the Pakistani line, foreign minister Jaswant Singh said ??de-escalation requires restoration of status quo ante of the Line of Control??. ??The onus is on Pakistan to establish its bonafide,?? he added.
Singh said only two issues were discussed with his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz: first, the armed intrusion in Kargil and what steps Pakistan proposes to undo it, and second, the barbarity committed by its troops on our soldiers.
Pakistan made some proposals, including expanding the role of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to maintain peace along the border and also urged Delhi to restore ??partial?? de-escalation in Kargil.
Pakistan, therefore, while accepting India?s right to throw out intruders, wanted it to desist from using heavy artillery and air power against them. At the same time, it also made an attempt to internationalise the issue by suggesting that the UN group be involved. Aziz said the tension could be defused only if India accepted these proposals.
But Delhi not only rejected the suggestion to involve the UN military group, it also stressed that military action and air strikes will continue till all infiltrators are driven out. ??We don?t believe in partial restoration of normalcy. We are for total de-escalation of tension along the LoC and this can only be achieved after all intruders are withdrawn,?? Singh said. Asked how long India will wait for Pakistan to respond, Singh replied: ??The intrusion has to be undone. Militarily or diplomatically, whichever comes first.??
Aziz described the discussions as ??frank and useful?? and in an attempt to tie India to the talks table, he suggested that the neighbours return to the peace process under the Lahore Declaration.
But not willing to be drawn into such niceties, Singh questioned Pakistan?s intentions. ?? It is a pity that even before the ink on the Lahore Declaration was dry, Pakistan embarked on this misadventure in Kargil,?? he said.
India?s hardline was also evident from its refusal to accept Aziz?s invitation to Singh to visit Islamabad. Delhi indicated it was in no mood for a truce unless the intruders were withdrawn. ??We do not have the luxury to engage in talks about talks,?? Singh said.
Refusing to describe today?s dialogue as negotiations, he said to say so would be a ??misnomer??. He pointed out that the talks were held on the request of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The only concession India appeared to have allowed Pakistan was to set up a meeting between Aziz and Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. Though the details of the half-an-hour meeting were not divulged, Aziz is believed to have conveyed a message from Sharif, urging Vajpayee to take steps to de-escalate the tension.
Vajpayee, while expressing his desire to restore peace with Pakistan, reiterated this would be possible only after Islamabad recalled the intruders.
The Pakistani delegation, comprising Aziz and foreign ministry officials, arrived at 10 this morning. Singh was there to receive his counterpart, but underlining the grim atmosphere, there were no hugs or handshakes. Aziz was whisked away in a limousine waiting at the tarmac to Hyderabad House, the venue of the talks.
Outside Hyderabad House, a group of 70 people raised anti-Pakistan slogans. That they were not chased away immediately by policemen suggested that the government was not averse to letting the visitors have a feel of the ??sense of national outrage?? over Islamabad?s role.
The talks went along predictable lines. Pakistan, while accepting that intrusion had taken place in Kargil, refused to admit its role in it. Instead, it argued that what had happened was nothing unusual as the ??Kashmiri Mujahideens?? were waging a war for the past 10 years. But Delhi rejected the argument.
Aziz also played down the LoC issue, saying that though Pakistan had ??respect?? for it and believed in the ??sanctity?? of the Simla Agreement, it was India which had violated it thrice by unilaterally taking up positions in the Siachen Glacier.
He argued that some parts of the LoC were not properly demarcated and, therefore, it was not proper to accuse Pakistan of trying to alter it.
But India disagreed. ??No question was raised about the LoC in the last 27 years. Why are they raising it now??? Singh asked.