Powell Meets Indian Leaders amid Intensifying Border Tensions with Pakistan

Published October 17th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

The Pakistani army was on high alert Wednesday after India reinforced its positions on the border between the two rival countries. The development took place as US Secretary of State Colin Powell was holding talks in Delhi with senior Indian officials. 

Powell, in a bid to cool tension over the Kshmir issue, declared that the United States and India stand "shoulder to shoulder against terrorism," and strongly condemned terrorist attacks by Islamic radicals in Indian-held Kashmir.  

Flanked by Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh at a news conference on Wednesday, Powell also sought to defuse criticism from Indian officials in response to comments he made on Tuesday in Pakistan.  

Powell and Singh hailed the progress of India-US relations in recent years, describing the two countries as "natural allies" because of their shared values, reported AP.  

Powell was quoted by the agency as saying Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had accepted an invitation to visit Washington on Nov. 9.  

India was one of the first countries to condemn the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and to offer generous cooperation in the anti-terrorism struggle.  

Powell had caused uneasiness in India when he was quoted as saying that Kashmir was "the central" issue in Indo-Pakistani relations.  

That fits Pakistan's description of the relationship. India believes that Kashmir "is one of the issues" dividing the two countries, according to the AP.  

Powell disposed of the issue by saying he was misquoted. He said Kashmir was "a central issue" and claimed that those were the words he used in Pakistan.  

Powell arrived in Delhi after two days of clashes in Kashmir between Indian and Pakistani troops. He raised the subject during a meeting Tuesday night with Singh and raised it again on Wednesday with Vajpayee.  

AFP reported that the meeting was held in an "extremely cordial, constructive and positive" atmosphere, and that the officials decided to "further broaden, expand and deepen their relations," quoting India's External Affairs Ministry spokesperson as telling reporters Tuesday night.  

Alluding to Kashmir, Powell told a news conference Tuesday after meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, "The beginning of a dialogue is the most important thing that is needed now."  

The Indian army said its shelling was to punish Pakistan for helping Islamic militants who are fighting to separate the Himalayan region from India - a charge which Pakistan denies.  

"The army will act very decisively with no holds barred," Defence Minister George Fernandes said. "India will be ruthless in dealing with infiltrators and the kind of methods used by them, like laying of mines, killings . . . getting into suicidal exercises."  

Fernandes said Indian soldiers killed 30 militants who tried to cross a ceasefire line that separates the Pakistani- and Indian-controlled portions of Kashmir. Pakistan accused Indian forces of killing a woman and wounding 25 other civilians.  

Pakistan says India is denying the largely Muslim region the right to self-determination.  

India refuses to accept outside involvement in efforts to resolve the dispute, and Powell made no offer to mediate.  

After meeting with Vajpayee, Powell was heading for Shanghai, China, for two days of talks with Asia-Pacific leaders before the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit later in the week - Albawaba.com 

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