June 2003 News

Talks must include entire region: India

3 June 2003
The Dawn

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said on Tuesday that any talks with Islamabad over the dispute on Kashmir had to include the one-third portion of the Himalayan region he said is under Pakistan's control. 'We have had talks on Kashmir earlier also. If we were to start with Kashmir, then we have to start (talks) with that part of Kashmir which is under Pakistani occupation,' Vajpayee told reporters after a three-nation tour. Vajpayee made his comments in response to a query on whether the Kashmir dispute could again become a hurdle to progress, as it did during the last talks at a historic summit in Agra in 2001. India and Pakistan have long been at odds over the disputed territory of Kashmir and the region is seen by military strategists as a potential flashpoint for conflict. Press Trust of India said the Indian prime minister cautioned that talks with Pakistan had yet to begin despite a series of initiatives from both sides to improve relations between the two neighbours. 'This is the beginning. The talks can start only after cross-border terrorism ends,' he said.Vajpayee, who returned to New Delhi after an official visit to Germany, France and Russia, also said world leaders, including the five members of UN Security Council, had supported his position on 'cross-border infiltration'. On being asked whether US President George W. Bush had said he would exert pressure Pakistan to end cross-border infiltration, the Indian premier said that Bush had promised to discuss the issue with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. 'Bush's assurance that he would take up the matter with Musharraf (in Washington this month) is itself a pressure,' Vajpayee said.The Indian premier two months ago offered a 'hand of friendship' to Pakistan, ending a 17-month deadlock and following two failed summits at Lahore and Agra.-AFP


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