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SAARC Summit Ends without Progress on India, Pakistan Rift - 2002-01-06

In Nepal, leaders from seven south Asian states pledged regional cooperation, but made little progress toward easing tensions between India and Pakistan. Hopes for a direct meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan during the SAARC summit, which ended Sunday, did not materialize.

A draft declaration approved by the seven leaders pledged cooperation in the fight against terrorism, poverty and violence against women. But attention during the two-day summit was diverted to the simmering dispute between India and Pakistan. The two countries have mobilized tens of thousands of troops on their borders, as relations plunged to new lows following the December 13 attack on India's parliament by militant Kashmir separatists.

The summit opened and ended with a handshake. Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, approached India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, at the opening of the summit Saturday to shake hands. At the meeting's conclusion, Mr. Vajpayee extended his hand to General Musharraf.

But there was little else in the way of interaction between the two men. They both attended an informal meeting of the seven leaders, but did not hold direct talks.

In his only public comment before leaving Kathmandu, Mr. Vajpayee said nothing substantive had come from his brief interaction with General Musharraf.

The Pakistani leader told reporters tensions had not been eased, but they had not gotten worse either. General Musharraf said there are no planned talks with India, but that the informal interaction he had with Mr. Vajpayee should lead to talks to ease tensions. "There is no time frame as such [for talks]," he said, "but both sides do realize the urgency of the situation - the unfavorable, or dangerous, situation - the confrontation between the two countries. There is no time frame [for talks]. We hope that a formalized interaction ought to take place."

Indian officials say no talks can take place until Pakistan de-escalates violence in Kashmir and turns over 20 suspected criminals and terrorists, who are reportedly living in Pakistan. Mr. Musharraf says India has not provided enough proof for Pakistan to act on the list of alleged suspects.

In recent days, Indian officials have praised a crackdown in Pakistan against militant Kashmir separatists, but they also say more needs to be done. Speaking in Kathmandu on Sunday, General Musharraf said his government has been cracking down on extremists in Pakistan for nearly six months. He said India and the rest of the world should acknowledge his efforts. "The world should be seeing what we are doing, and we have done a lot," he asserted. "They have to take note of what we have already achieved in Pakistan, and what I intend to do in the future - that should be taken note of. We are doing it in our national interest, and this should be noted by everyone, because it has a direct bearing on any kind of extremist militant activity, both inside and outside Pakistan."

General Musharraf said India also needs to understand there is what he describes as a cause and effect between the situation in Kashmir and terrorism. He said both the cause and effect of terrorism in Kashmir must be addressed together. He said he understands India's concerns in Kashmir, but India must also understand Pakistan's.