India rules out early dialogue with Pakistan
3 August 2000
New Delhi: India has rejected a dialogue with Pakistan following the recent massacres in Jammu and Kashmir but reiterated its commitment to continue the peace process in the State. Highly-placed sources in the Government said the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, had rejected an early dialogue with Pakistan in the aftermath of the killings in Kashmir during his conversation with the U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton, last night. According to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office on the conversation, Mr. Vajpayee categorically said, 'there was no basis for a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan' in the prevailing circumstances. 'The people of India were asking how long India would exercise restraint in the face of such outrages,' he pointed out. However, the 'peace process in Jammu and Kashmir would continue.' The sources said India was likely to engage a wide spectrum of local Kashmiris in a prolonged dialogue but was unlikely to open the Pakistani track of the unfolding peace process in the near future. India's refusal to engage the Pakistanis after the massacre could intensify the U.S. pressure on Islamabad to restrain the externally-dominated 'Jehadi' forces operating in Kashmir. Analysts feel a continuation of cross-border violence sustained from Pakistani soil was exposing Islamabad to the danger of being declared a terrorist state. The Government's decision not to insist on a dialogue with Kashmiris within the framework of the Constitution has widened the scope for talks. The Government appears to have veered round to the view that the dialogue with Kashmiris and not the modalities, which should conform to the provisions of the Constitution. The flexibility in New Delhi's approach in dealing with Kashmiris is likely to pay rich dividends, Kashmir watchers say. Sources said the dialogue with the Hizbul Mujahideen, which had offered to hold its fire against the Indian security forces, was now at a delicate stage. Talks with the Hizbul representative, Mr. Fazal-Haq-Qureshi, in Srinagar were confined to a single agenda - working out the ground rules for enforcing the ceasefire. Talks were held with Mr. Qureshi intermittently on Wednesday, but the series of killings forced a temporary halt in the afternoon. The talks were resumed with a Home Ministry official later in the evening. The dialogue continued today, but a breakthrough in determining the modalities for the ceasefire was still some distance away. The tactics, weaponry and literature recovered from the sites of the massacres indicate that at least two of the killings - in Pahalgam and in Kupwara - were undertaken by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.