Pakistan Condemns Terrorism "In All Its Forms"
Despite the latest move, India still refused open talks with its rival, charging that Pakistan had yet to prove its commitment to fighting terrorism.
“Pakistan rejects terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and has fully cooperated with the international coalition against terrorism in that spirit,” Musharraf said during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Blair, who met with Musharraf in Islamabad today after a Sunday visit with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, welcomed Pakistan’s denunciation of terrorism and urged the two countries to begin talks.
“Both countries in these very difficult times understand the need both to defeat terrorism and resolve difficult issues through dialogue and partnership,” Blair said. “There should be a proper, meaningful process for peaceful dialogue to resolve disputes, such as that of Kashmir.”
India has said it would be willing to talk with Pakistan only if it can prove it rejects terrorism in all its forms.
“The issue of action against terrorist groups operating from Pakistani soil … an open denunciation of terrorism as an instrument of state policy … these are all in the nature of the demands we have made of Pakistan,” Indian government spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said.
Musharraf and Vajpayee shook hands briefly yesterday at the close of the South Asian regional summit in Nepal, but they did not discuss ways to defuse the escalating tensions between their countries.
“There’s no question of any dialogue with Pakistan when there’s no change in its attitude [on terrorism],” Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said, but added that the neighbors “have not abandoned diplomatic civilities.”
Despite the diplomatic efforts, Indian and Pakistani troops along the 1,100-mile border dividing the Himalayan region of Kashmir between the two countries exchanged heavy artillery fire today. At least 24 people were killed and 30 others wounded in the disputed Kashmir region since Sunday evening.
Tensions between mostly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan have become increasingly worse since a Dec. 13 suicide attack on the New Delhi parliament building killed 14 people, including the five assailants. India has demanded Pakistan crack down on two Islamic militant groups it suspects of having carried out the attack.
There are about a dozen Pakistan-based militant groups fighting India’s control of 45 percent of Kashmir. India considers Jammu-Kashmir, the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, to be an integral part of its country, while Pakistan wants a plebiscite to determine to which country, if any, Kashmir belongs.
While Pakistani police have arrested almost 300 suspected militants since the Dec. 13 attack, Musharraf’s government has rejected New Delhi’s request that over 20 alleged terrorists be extradited, saying India has not provided enough evidence against the men. And even if there is evidence against the suspects, Islamabad says it will deal with them according to Pakistani law.
“We are certainly not at all considering handing over anybody to anyone,” Musharraf said.
Musharraf added he would outline the steps Pakistan plans to take in combating Islamic extremists in the next few days.
“We have been a victim of sectarian extremism, sectarian terrorism,” he said. “All that is being addressed and its final decisions will be given when I come to address the nation in a few days time.”
Those steps could include bans on hate speech at Muslim schools and an end to open fundraising for Islamic militants, officials said.
Relations between the South Asian neighbors, both of which have nuclear capabilities, were further aggravated late Sunday when Indian forces shot down an unmanned spy plane that had entered Indian airspace over Kashmir.
Pakistan denies that it was a Pakistani spy plane, insisting instead that an Indian aircraft crashed and India was trying to manipulate the incident for propaganda purposes.
Defense Minister Georges Fernandes said India has no intention of pulling its troops from the border, but would prefer to solve the crisis through diplomacy.
“The troops are on the front line and, no, we are not reducing the troops,” Fernandes said. “But we are taking several diplomatic initiatives to explain our stand to the international community and expect some action from Pakistan.”