Sunday, June 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Situation still explosive: Musharraf
‘Only summit-level talks will help’

Inamul Haq, left, takes oath of Foreign Minister of Pakistan from Gen. Pervez Musharraf
Mr Inamul Haq, left, takes oath as Foreign Minister of Pakistan from General Pervez Musharraf on Saturday in Islamabad, Pakistan. Haq replaced Mr Abdul Sattar, who resigned due to health problems. — AP/PTI photo

Islamabad, June 22
Despite easing of tensions with India, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today said the situation still remained explosive and could turn worse in the event of any major terrorist strike in Kashmir or elsewhere in that country.

In an interview to BBC Radio and Television yesterday, he called for immediate withdrawal of troops from the border but added in the same vein that he “cares less” whether India de-escalates, and warned “they dare not violate our international border. They dare not violate the LoC.”

He also suggested talks at the highest level with India saying it would be best for him to have a dialogue with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as lower level parleys would only mean “to sideline the issues.”

Referring to the Indian assertion that it wanted results on the ground before de-escalating, he said “We don’t want them to de-escalate. They can carry on remaining on the border. We know that it is hurting them” more than Pakistan.

“They called back their Navy — what for. Let them remain in the high seas. They are not bothering us. It was bothering them, therefore they called them back. They are not doing us a favour by de-escalating,” he said.

During the interview he answered questions relating to Kashmir, Pakistan’s deterrence, possible involvement of the Al-Qaida and local Islamic organisations in terrorist activities.

About the current stand-off between the two countries, he said “We came very close. As a military man I gauge it more from the military capability point of view... When Indians moved their forces forward, the Army and Air Force that became very dangerous. That situation still remains”.

“The threat of war has in fact diminished because of diminishing of intentions. But the capability exists. The situation will remain explosive because if anything happens inside Kashmir or inside India which is a possibility by any independent, any terrorist organisation or group doing it, the situation can become explosive again.

“It is not a mistake at all. Kashmir cause is our national cause. National interest never gets changed. No country changes its national interest,” General Musharraf said.

Asked whether it damaged Pakistan’s interests, he said due to the present crisis the Kashmir issue had been understood by the world.

“I do not think it has damaged Pakistan. I think the world knows the reality. I think the Kashmir cause at the moment is understood by the world. Kashmir was never understood, never discussed. Never even considered seriously while 80,000 persons have died there.

The seriousness with which the world looks at Kashmir shows that Kashmir is in the limelight and this is the best way of moving forward towards a peaceful resolution of the dispute”.

In the midst of a debate over what prevented a conflict between India and Pakistan, General Musharraf today said it was conventional deterrence of Islamabad that averted a war between the two countries than its nuclear deterrence.

Denying reports attributed to him that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons deterred India from attacking, General Musharraf said: “I never said this. Where did I say that it was nuclear deterrent that has prevented the war. It was their presidential candidate Mr (A.P.J. Abdul) Kalam who is saying that it is the nuclear deterrent that has prevented war on both sides. I have never said that.”

General Musharraf has emphasised that only serious dialogue at a high level can settle issues between India and Pakistan.

“Talks between India and Pakistan can yield result only when they are held at high level and with serious intention”, he said.

Disapproving the talks at lower level, he said, “It would mean only to sideline the issues.”

General Musharraf plans to delegate powers to run the administration to the Prime Minister but says he will retain the “authority” to dismiss an elected government if necessary.

In an interview to the BBC today, the military ruler tried to dispel the impression that he planned to continue his rule as he was doing now.

“After the October poll, as far as I am concerned the Prime Minister will be all powerful,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister would have powers to build dams and carry out other development activities.

“I am taking all those decisions as Chief Executive. I am going to give up all that. The real powers will be devloved to the PM. But as president, I will retain that authority to have an over watch on him. PTI


Border firing continues
Tribune News Service

Jammu, June 22
Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged mortar and small-arms fire from across Dras, R.S. Pora, Samba, Akhnoor, Poonch and Nowshehra today.

Defence Ministry sources said Pakistani troops fired over 70 mortar shells and 40 grenades from across R.S. Pora, rocking Sangral village and adjoining hamlets.

BSF authorities said there was no casualty “on our side.” They said there was no mortar or artillery shelling from across Poonch, Nowshehra and Akhnoor, except for the small-arms firings by Pakistani troops.

The Indian troops retaliated “effectively” and caused some damage to enemy fortifications.

The BSF authorities said the level of firing and shelling had come down drastically on both sides of the international border.

They said till 10 days back Pakistan troops used to fire between 15,000 and 20,000 rounds from small-arms and heavy calibre weapons from across R.S. Pora, Samba, Arnia, Hiranagar, Akhnoor, Poonch and Rajouri.

The figure came down to 7000 four days ago. During the last two days, the daily rounds fired by Pakistani troops ranged between 2,000 and 3,000.

They said the mortar shells and grenades launched from automatic grenade launchers from across Sangral village in R.S. Pora sector was aimed at disrupting he fencing work.

They stated that even during heavy Pakistani shelling and firing, work on fencing the 187 km international border had continued.

The authorities said some migrant families had returned to their border villages in Samba and R.S. Pora during the last two days. They said the situation remained stable, more displaced families would go back to their ancestral villages.

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