'Pakistan forced to drop Kashmir from UNSC agenda'
3 May 2003
The Daily Times
NEW DELHI: Diplomats here believe that Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's latest peace moves have been successful in preventing Pakistan from forcing a discussion on Kashmir in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).Following the Indian prime minister's Friday announcements in parliament, sources told Daily times that world leaders had on Saturday forced Pakistan, current president of the UNSC, to drop its plan to include Kashmir in the agenda of the UNSC's May 13 meeting.Sources here said Prime Minister Vajpayee was at pains to make this point to his colleagues who had expressed opposition and reservations to the peace initiatives with Pakistan. Mr Vajpayee told his colleagues at a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting and also at the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) conclave that following the withdrawal of troops from the border, 'extending the hand of friendship' was the only way to keep international focus away from Kashmir.Referring to the statements of US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage describing the situation in Kashmir as 'dangerous', the sources said Mr Vajpayee asked his ministers and hardline leaders at the RSS meeting to 'understand the global situation' after the war in Iraq and Pakistan's attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue. Mr Vajpayee's announcement that India wanted the resumption of diplomatic and air contacts with Pakistan was preceded by a meeting of the CCS at his official residence here on Friday morning. Highly placed sources here said the prime minister faced stiff opposition at the CCS meeting. The sources said his lone supporter was Finance Minister Jaswant Singh. While Defence Minister George Fernandes was restrained, Home Minister LK Advani and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha apparently voiced scepticism about the peace initiative. Sources privy to the meeting said Mr Sinha was particularly critical and questioned the logic behind the peace moves. Mr Advani drew attention to the failure of earlier peace overtures and was doubtful that the fresh initiative would achieve anything. However, he agreed with Mr Vajpayee that talks were a logical follow-up to the withdrawal of troops from the border.Quoting intelligence reports, Mr Sinha alleged Pakistan had again set up training camps in its side of Kashmir, and argued for strikes to dismantle them. He cited the US declaration of Kashmiri militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen as a terrorist outfit as support for his argument, saying it was a broad hint from the US that India was free to act against the bases of the organisation.A senior government functionary said India was pushing for a solution of the status-quo through international interlocutors, with a sole concession to Pakistan that it may have access to the Kashmir Valley in terms of trade and travel through the Muzaffarabad-Baramulla and Jammu-Sochetgarh roads. In his remarks in parliament, Mr Vajpayee conceded 'it is difficult to make any forecast about terrorists as it cannot be said whether they are operating independently or under someone's command.'