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Musharraf vows to stop infiltration: Armitage

The US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, in New Delhi on Friday. — Photo: V. Sudershan

The US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, in New Delhi on Friday. — Photo: V. Sudershan  

NEW DELHI June 7. As the United States today delivered a credible and substantive commitment from Pakistan on permanently ending cross-border infiltration across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, India is likely to respond with some matching gestures in the next few days.

Well-placed sources in the Government said the Indian response would be a one-off move aimed at demonstrating New Delhi's commitment to peace in the region, but did not detail the nature of the impending gestures.

The Indian moves are expected to be in the non-diplomatic arena and lend credence to New Delhi's claim that it is willing to de-escalate the military confrontation with Pakistan if and when Pakistan makes a radical departure from its sponsorship of terrorism.

The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, today told the Indian leadership that American pressure on the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, to end cross-border terrorism had begun to yield results.

Speaking to reporters after his 35-minute meeting with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, this evening, Mr. Armitage said that in his talks with Pakistani leaders yesterday Gen. Musharraf had pledged to "stop cross-border infiltration permanently''.

This new commitment is being seen here as a major political gain for India which has insisted on a permanent and irreversible end to terrorist infiltration across the LoC.

While communicating the movement on the Pakistani side to the Indian leaders, Mr. Armitage apparently underlined the American expectations for early reciprocal actions from India, which could lead to a step-by-step process of de-escalating the current Indo-Pakistan confrontation.

A more calibrated Indian response to changes in Pakistan's policy will depend on a careful assessment of the evidence that Gen. Musharraf is implementing his pledge to end cross-border infiltration on a permanent basis.

While conceding that India is the aggrieved party in the current military confrontation with Pakistan, Mr. Armitage also stressed the importance of India giving Gen. Musharraf some space by responding positively to his first step on cross-border infiltration.

India is aware of the personal prestige and political weight that the U.S. President, George W. Bush, has put behind the American effort to defuse Indo-Pakistan tensions. Close on the heels of Mr. Armitage, the U.S. Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, arrives in India and Pakistan.

After the talks with Mr. Armitage this afternoon, the External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, placed on record India's "deep sense of appreciation of the spirit that has persuaded President Bush'' to send his top officials to the region in pursuit of peace.

Reaffirming India's own commitment to peace, Mr. Singh added that if Gen. Musharraf's pledges are "converted on the ground into action... India will reciprocate in a manner this is befitting.''

But before moving towards a substantive de-escalation, India wants to satisfy itself that the evidence on declining cross-border infiltration is indeed credible. In arriving at that assessment, which could take a few days, India appears ready to accept intelligence inputs from the United States and Great Britain.

By the time Mr. Rumsfeld arrives in New Delhi early next week, India would have signalled its own desire to find a reasonable way out of the present impasse and defined a more calibrated response to Gen. Musharraf's actions.

India would also want some commitments from Pakistan, underwritten by the U.S., that Gen. Musharraf is moving towards a comprehensive effort to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on Pakistani soil. The Americans are not entirely pessimistic on the prospects for such a movement in Islamabad.

Mr. Armitage said he discussed with the Indian side the "possibilities and modalities'' of a monitoring mechanism on the Line of Control in Kashmir to prevent infiltration, but no decision has been made.

The Foreign Office spokesperson dismissed the idea of an Anglo-American force to monitor the LoC and said it did not even figure in the talks today. India remains committed to its proposal for a joint Indo-Pakistan patrolling of the LoC. That issue, however, would acquire salience only after the process of de-escalation begins.

Besides substantive discussions with Mr. Singh in the morning, Mr. Armitage held talks with the National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra. He called on the Home Minister L.K. Advani, and the leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi. The Defence Minister, George Fernandes, hosted a dinner for Mr. Armitage.

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