June 04, 2002
ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) - Pakistan's president traded angry accusations with his Indian counterpart Tuesday and then said having atomic weapons implies they might be used - stoking fears the conflict over Kashmir will explode into full-scale war.

Efforts by Russia, China and other nations failed to get Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to hold face-to-face talks Tuesday.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to see progress toward such negotiations, and Indian officials said they saw signs the situation in Kashmir was becoming calmer.

Despite the diplomatic maneuvering, some of the 1 million Indian and Pakistani soldiers posted along both sides of the 1,800-mile frontier unleashed fresh artillery and gunfire at each other in Kashmir on Tuesday.

Pakistan reported that India shelled four sectors of Kashmir, killing one civilian and injuring nine. The Pakistan army said it retaliated by destroying at least four Indian bunkers, causing some casualties among Indian soldiers.

While speaking at an Asian security conference attended by both Musharraf and Vajpayee, Putin likened their impasse over the Himalayan province to the 1961 Cuban missile crisis. Today, as then, world leaders have to take responsibility to quash the risk of nuclear war, Putin said.

After holding separate talks with Musharraf and Vajpayee, Putin said he detected progress.

"In any case, both leaders expressed their interest in direct contacts, even though they still see the conditions for organizing such meetings differently, but both sides have the desire for such contacts," Putin said after the meetings. "No less important, both leaders of both states underlined that they do not intend to use force to solve their problems."

Moscow for talks. But the Kremlin press service said Putin did not plan to bring Vajpayee to Moscow since the Russian leader already is scheduled to visit India in December.

At the security conference Tuesday morning, the Indian and Pakistani leaders sat across a long, horseshoe-shaped table and angrily blamed each other for more than five decades of conflict. The countries have fought three wars since 1947 - two of them over Kashmir, which both countries claim in its entirety.

Musharraf said he accepted Putin's invitation to attend possible talks in Moscow. He said he did not know whether Vajpayee, who also met Putin, would go to Vajpayee reiterated his willingness to talk with Pakistan, but said there first must be a halt to cross-border terrorism in India-controlled Kashmir, such as the deadly assaults on the Indian Parliament in December and an Indian army base in Kashmir last month, which left 34 dead, mostly wives and children of army officers.

India says the terrorism is carried out by Pakistan-based Islamic militants fighting the past 12 years for Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan. Alluding to Pakistan, Vajpayee said, "Nuclear powers should not use nuclear blackmail "

Musharraf, asked at a news conference to state Pakistan's nuclear policy and explain why it will not join India in renouncing first use of nuclear weapons, said, "The possession of nuclear weapons by any state obviously implies they will be used under some circumstances."

He said, however, it would be irresponsible for a leader to discuss such things and Pakistan's "deeper policy" is for denuclearization of South Asia. India's national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, responded: "We will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. India hopes the enormity of the use of nuclear weapons is understood by the president of Pakistan.''

Tensions between India and Pakistan seem to be easing slightly amid international diplomatic efforts, an Indian military spokesman said Tuesday. But it was too soon to say whether the situation would become calmer and stay that way, said P.K. Bandopadhyay, an India Defense Ministry spokesman.

"There is a little softening, but it is premature, " Bandopadhyay told The Associated Press. "We are on the diplomatic path."

While attending an international conference in Barbados, Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday pledged "a full-court diplomatic press" on the two nations, saying, "It would be absolutely horrible in the year 2002 for any nation to use nuclear weapons in a situation such as this. "

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is expected in the region this weekend, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is due to visit Pakistan and India this week.

Mishra also said India heard that Musharraf issued orders to end raids across the Line of Control separating the Pakistani- and Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir. "A statement from the United States says there is some movement in that direction, but it (the infiltration) has not stopped. We want to wait and see on the ground," Mishra said.

In Washington, a U.S. official told AP the State Department was due to issue a new travel warning Tuesday strongly urging the more than 60,000 Americans in India and Pakistan to depart. This is a tougher approach than past statements urging Americans to consider leaving.

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