Musharraf Presses for Meeting With India While Violence Continues

Musharraf’s diplomatic overture came during Monday’s opening session of a three-day Asian security summit in Kazakhstan, which both leaders are attending.

Vajpayee told reporters no meeting with Musharraf had been planned. He and other Indian officials have demanded the Pakistani government clamp down on Islamic militants’ cross-border raids into Kashmir before talks can proceed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is also attending the summit and plans to meet with both leaders separately Tuesday, has offered to act as mediator should a meeting between the two materialize.

Leaders from both sides sought to calm international fears that the two nuclear-capable nations might unleash atomic weapons.

“The government makes it clear that India does not believe in the use of nuclear weapons. Neither does it visualize that it will be used by any other country,” Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said. “India categorically rules out the use of nuclear weapons.”

In response, Musharraf told CNN, “I would even go to the extent of saying one shouldn’t even be discussing these things [nuclear war], because any sane individual cannot even think of going into this unconventional war.”

Meanwhile, heavy shelling on Monday in three cross-border areas of Kashmir — Batalik, Kargil and Dras — left three people dead, including an Indian policeman and a Muslim guerrilla according to Indian officials.

A spokesman for the Pakistani army told reporters Indian shelling along the frontier killed seven civilians and injured 16 others, including three women.

Hundreds of people have begun a mass exodus from Kotli in the Pakistani-controlled area of Kashmir after officials imposed an overnight blackout throughout the region.

Witnesses told reporters that Indian artillery shells landed just a mile from the city, about 25 miles away from the frontier separating Pakistan and India. Farther south, in Khoiratta, residents said almost 10,000 of the village’s 15,000 people have fled.

The two nations have massed a million troops along their border since a December attack on the Indian parliament, which New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based militants fighting India’s rule in Kashmir.

Kashmir, a region in the Himalayan Mountains at the northern edge of the border, has been at the center of two of the three wars fought between India and Pakistan since their independence from Britain in 1947. India controls 45 percent of Kashmir, Pakistan about 35 percent and China the remainder.