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Pak. regrets Vajpayee's remarks on talks

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD, MARCH 26. Pakistan has described as "unfortunate" the remarks of the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, that the situation is not conducive for the resumption of a dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, Aziz Ahmed Khan, told a news conference here that "all I can say is it is unfortunate that Pakistan's very genuine and good offers of dialogue are being interpreted like this. The entire international community has appreciated Pakistan's genuine offers. The Indian leaders should realise that the best course of action is to sit across the table and resolve all issues''.

Mr. Khan was responding to a specific query on Mr. Vajpayee's observations in Shimla on Monday. The spokesman reiterated that Pakistan desired peace and resolution of all differences through dialogue.

The Press Secretary to the Pakistan President, Rashid Quereshi, who was also present at the briefing denied suggestions that Pakistan had pulled some of its troops from the Indian borders for deployment elsewhere. It was for India to initiate steps to reduce the tensions by withdrawing troops and begin talks.

``There is very little change at the borders. Pakistan has not pulled back any of it troops. There may have been some adjustment made. The border situation remained same,'' he said.

He was of the view that there was "realisation" among the Indian masses about the need for de-escalation. "That is why the confusing and self-contradictory statements are being given from time to time. One hopes that better sense prevails and concrete steps are taken to reduce tension,'' he said.

Asked if efforts were on to reduce tensions between the two countries, Mr. Khan said whatever Pakistan had done was only in retaliation and in response to the steps taken by India for which Pakistan was not responsible.

"We do not like the state of tension. We would like reduction in tension. We have briefed the international community about it and our desire to resolve all issues through peaceful dialogue. That had its effect.''

He said the international community had agreed with Pakistan's stand and called for reduction of tension. "Our stand has been accepted by international community. It is for them (India) to undo a situation that they have created. It is for them to take concrete steps.

There is not yet any step from their side that could give any hope for reduction of tension. We would like that to happen.''

Mr. Khan said the ground situation had not been changed. The reality was that the entire Indian Army was deployed at the borders in an offensive posture. "So they have to take steps to reduce tensions''. Pakistan had tried to bring down the temperatures.

"We have continued to offer to resolve all issues through dialogue. It is for India to respond and the ball is in their court.''

Asked about Mr. Vajpayee's observation that there was little chance of a conflict between India and Pakistan taking a nuclear turn, Mr. Khan said, "war is a deplorable thing and should be avoided. The focus of the region should be on peace and progress. Attention should be on these issues rather than drumming up war hysteria''.

Major Gen. Qureshi denied India's claim that nine Pakistan soldiers were killed in the recent exchanges of fire between the two countries. He alleged that the Indian forces made such claims only to account for their own casualties.

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