India, Pakistan Await Powell Peace Mission
New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - South Asian rivals India and Pakistan are once again welcoming Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region, but they have different expectations of what his visit, beginning Friday, might accomplish.
Powell is due to meet in New Delhi Saturday with several Indian leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, and with President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad on Sunday.
The nuclear neighbors have been on the brink of outright hostilities for months, with the tension centering on cross-border terrorist attacks on Indian targets. Troops remain massed along the nations' joint borders.
Before leaving for the region, two U.S. congressmen urged Powell to press Musharraf to implement his commitments to end cross-border terrorism "permanently and in a manner visible to India."
In a joint letter to the Secretary, Republican Rep. Benjamin Gilman (N.Y.) and Democrat Gary Ackerman (N.Y.) asked Powell to ensure that Musharraf would keep his stated "commitment to abandon terrorism."
Powell told reporters Thursday he would see whether any further actions could be taken to reduce the potential for violence in the region.
The core issue between India and Pakistan is the longstanding dispute over Kashmir, a majority Muslim territory divided between them and claimed by both. India accuses Pakistan of supporting Islamic radicals fighting to end Indian rule there.
Powell said he would use the visit to discuss the possibility of bilateral dialogue over Kashmir.
Indian commentators said the government was expected to bring up the fact that its earlier offers to reduce the tension with Pakistan were based on U.S. assurances that Pakistan would put an end to cross-border terrorism.
New Delhi claims that Pakistan has not honored its commitment to do so.
Another concern likely to be raised involves reports that the U.S. may resume weapons sales to Pakistan, a move opposed by India.
"We are concerned about the offensive capability of Pakistan," a Ministry of External Affairs spokesman said Thursday. "We're closely monitoring it because Pakistan uses it to promote its aggressive designs against India."
Although the Indian government has welcomed the opportunity to meet with Powell, an Indian analyst said little new was expected from the visit.
Rajeev Sharma noted Friday that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was not scheduled to meet Powell, and said this was in itself a "powerful indication that nothing tangible or concrete can be expected."
He said the Indo-Pakistan logjam could only be broken if the two countries concerned took a more flexible stance.
"What is happening right now is that both the sides are sticking to their respectively stated positions."
Sharma had a gloomy assessment of the situation, saying he was not convinced the crisis was over.
He pointed out that Indian troops had been amassed on the Pakistan border for more than eight months in 1971 before full-scale war broke out.
"We have not yet crossed the camel's hump."
While the Indian government intends to focus on the question of security and terrorism, Pakistani foreign affairs ministry officials said they hoped the visit would result in a willingness by India to begin a dialogue on Kashmir.
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