Friday, July 5, 2002, Chandigarh, India





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Standoff may not end before J&K poll
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
Indo-Pakistan relations are currently stuck in a groove and this logjam is expected to continue till the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir are over, well-placed sources said here today.

Until then, no concrete improvement can be expected in Indo-Pakistan relations and a lot of political posturing is bound to continue from both sides.

This is evident by the fact that Pakistan has chosen to neither respond nor reciprocate to the last monthís announcement by India of allowing Pakistani aircraft overflight facilities.

Sources disclosed that India was not going to unveil any more de-escalatory steps and confidence- building measures vis-a-vis Pakistan in the near future, though the appointment of Mr Harsh Bhasin as Indiaís new High Commissioner to Islamabad is going to take place in due course.

It appears that a diplomatic see-saw game is being played between New Delhi and Islamabad and the Pakistani apprehension right now is that if the Jammu and Kashmir elections were to pass off peacefully, with no boycott call from the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, it would deal a powerful blow to Pakistanís Kashmir policy.

Hurriyat Chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat has recently met US Ambassador Robert D Blackwill and senior officials of Pakistanís High Commission here and, significantly, is understood to have given no assurance to Pakistan that the Hurriyat would boycott the forthcoming Assembly poll.

The diplomatic and political symbolism that newly appointed External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha showed immediately after he took over yesterday makes it clear that India is no longer going to cajole Pakistan. It indicates that India is going to be pro-active in its diplomacy vis-a-vis Pakistan and also going to clothe its diplomatic pronouncements in a language that Gen Pervez Musharraf understands.
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Pakistan sets up airbase

Islamabad, July 4
Pakistan has set up a forward airbase at the strategically located Skardu in the northern area near Siachen. It is the highest airbase in the region. India has airbases at Leh and Thoise areas in the region. Chief of the Pakistan Air Force Air Chief Marshal Mosahib Ali Mir visited the Skardu airbase recently. Fighter bombers have been stationed there. UNI
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