LOC SCAN BEFORE FRESH GESTURES 

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By FROM PRANAY SHARMA AND IDREES BAKHTIAR
  • Published 14.06.02
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India is likely to announce its next series of steps for de-escalation at the military and diplomatic levels within 10 days after assessing the situation on the Line of Control. Delhi does not want to be seen making major announcements every time a senior US leader comes visiting. Nor does it want to declare steps towards normalising ties before it is convinced of Pakistan's sincerity in stopping infiltration. The Centre feels Donald Rumsfeld's statement in Islamabad today that he had no "hard evidence" of al Qaida presence in Kashmir was just a "dilution" of what the US defence secretary had said in Delhi yesterday. "The facts are that I do not have evidence and the United States does not have evidence of al Qaida in Kashmir," Rumsfeld said today. "We do have a good deal of scraps of intelligence that have come in from people saying that they believe al Qaida are in Kashmir or in various locations. It tends to be speculative, it is not actionable, it is not verifiable..." Yesterday, Rumsfeld had said he had "seen indications that al Qaida is operating near the area of LoC", but was quick to add: "I don't have any hard evidence of who, how many, or where." Foreign ministry officials, however, do not see this is as a major shift. They say Rumsfeld's audience should be taken into account. "It is not a denial of what he said here, it may be a dilution," an official said. India thinks the vagueness in Rumsfeld's remarks is not such a bad thing after all. If he had said he was convinced of the al Qaida presence, the American public might have pressured Washington into taking concrete action against Osama bin Laden's supporters. This could well have ended in a proposal for joint India-US operations in Kashmir which would have been embarrassing for the Centre. US secretary of state Colin Powell also ruled out mediation in Kashmir, saying he saw the role of the US as a "facilitator". Rumsfeld said much the same thing. "There is no magic wand in this world," he said. "In the last analysis, people, countries sort out their own problems. They can do it with some help, ... but problems get sorted out on the ground."