India Turns Up Diplomatic Heat on Pakistan as Battle Cools in Kashmir

July 22, 1999
NEW DELHI -- Hopes of talks between India and Pakistan will remain buried on the Kashmir battlefield as long as Islamabad continues to support a Muslim insurgency in the disputed territory, analysts here warn. India has set three preconditions for a resumption of dialogue: The complete withdrawal of Pakistan-backed forces from Indian Kashmir, a reaffirmation of the "sanctity" of the disputed Kashmiri border, and an end to Pakistani sponsorship of cross-border terrorism.

The first condition has basically been complied with but the other two are likely to prove serious obstacles to further talks. Observers here say the tough line taken by New Delhi reflects its belief that as the diplomatic and military victor in the 10-week Kashmir conflict, it has the right to dictate the timing and agenda for a dialogue. "These are not preconditions but the basis of a reality," former Indian prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral told AFP. "It is also my perception that the new government after the (September-October election) will be consistent on this stand," said Gujral, who headed a 1996-1997 national coalition government.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh in a Tuesday night address made India's position for the talks clear to a select audience including Western diplomats. "While India remains ready for dialogue, the pace at which it can move forward will depend entirely on when and how the state of Pakistan ... permits it to do so," he said. The military conflict in Kashmir erupted on May 9 as India sought to evict what it said were Pakistani soldiers who had crossed the line of control dividing Indian- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Pakistan insisted they were Kashmiri freedom-fighters.

The fighting left more than 1,000 dead on both sides and brought the countries perilously close to a full-scale war. International opinion strongly favoured India during the conflict and New Delhi now wants to press home its advantage by securing certain commitments from the Pakistani side. The difficulty on the cross-border terrorism issue is that Islamabad has always denied providing material support for the Muslim insurgency launched in Indian Kashmir in 1989. Instead, it openly extends diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiris' struggle for self-determination.

"If moral and diplomatic support means heavy guns, money and terrorism then India has a major problem in putting its trust in Pakistan," said former Indian foreign secretary S.K. Singh.