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India Proposes Joint Monitoring of Kashmir 'Line of Control' - 2002-06-05

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has proposed joint monitoring, with Pakistan, of the "line of control" in Kashmir. Pakistan has yet to respond to the proposal, which came at the end of a summit of regional leaders in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Mr. Vajpayee's proposal comes just days before senior U.S. officials visit both countries - stepping up pressure to ease tensions in the region.

Speaking to Indian reporters just before he led his delegation back to New Delhi, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said India would consider joint monitoring of the line of control with Pakistan.

Mr. Vajpayee's surprise announcement came at the conclusion of a regional summit in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Leaders there were unable to get Mr. Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to hold direct talks.

India says Pakistan must stop militants from infiltrating into Indian-administered Kashmir and dismantle militant camps in the part of Kashmir Pakistan controls, before any talks can take place. Pakistan denies providing the militants with anything beyond moral and diplomatic support. It asserts no infiltration takes place.

Commodore Uday Bhaskar, the deputy director of New Delhi's Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis says India has proposed joint monitoring of the LOC before. Still, he says the prime minister's suggestion could be the beginning of an easing of tensions in the region.

"I think the prime minister suggesting that there could be some kind a joint effort to look at the pattern of what is happening on either side of the LOC, presents a certain opening," he said, " I think, of dealing with a situation that until recently seemed intractable."

In his remarks Wednesday, Mr. Vajpayee said it would not be practical for a third country to get involved in monitoring whether or not infiltration across the line of control is taking place, saying India and Pakistan can verify, themselves, whether or not infiltration has stopped.

American Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage begins a visit to both countries on Thursday, starting a new diplomatic effort to move India and Pakistan back from the brink of war. Next week, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visits both countries, in a further effort to ease tensions.