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Indian Prime Minister Rejects Pakistan's Kashmir Truce Offer - 2003-09-25

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee angrily rejected a Kashmir truce offer by Pakistan. Mr. Vajpayee said the offer, made the day before at the United Nations by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, was tantamount to an admission that Pakistan supports terrorism.

Mr. Vajpayee's address included both implicit and direct criticism of neighboring Pakistan, which his government accuses of sponsoring terror activity by Muslim extremists across the "Line of Control" in Indian Kashmir.

In a strongly worded statement, Mr. Vajpayee said some nominal participants in the global war against terrorism are themselves "part of the problem," and said terror attacks cannot be legitimized by citing "root causes" or "imaginary freedom struggles."

In his General Assembly speech the day before, Pakistani President Musharraf had accused India of trying to delegitimize what he termed the "Kashmiri freedom struggle," while at the same time inviting India to observe a complete cease-fire along the "Line of Control."

Mr. Vajpayee said the Musharraf offer was a "public admission" for the first time that Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism, and said India could only have dialogue with Pakistan when cross-border terrorism stops or is eradicated.

"After claiming that there is an indigenous struggle in Kashmir, he has offered to encourage a general cessation of violence in Kashmir. We totally refuse to let terrorism become a tool of blackmail," Mr. Vajpayee said. "Just as the world did not negotiate with al-Qaida or the Taleban, we shall not negotiate with terrorism. If we do so, we would be betraying the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who defied a most ferocious campaign of violence and intimidation, sponsored from across our borders, and participated in an election, which has been universally hailed as free and fair."

Mr. Musharraf had said Wednesday his government would be prepared to encourage an end to violence in Kashmir under an arrangement of reciprocal obligations, including restraints on both Indian forces and what he called "the Kashmiri freedom movement."

He said, if India is genuinely concerned about infiltration across the "Line of Control," it should agree to a viable mechanism to monitor it on both sides, and said the U.N. monitoring force in the area could be enlarged for this purpose.

India has been courted by the Bush administration as a possible participant in an expanded peacekeeping force in Iraq under a U.N. umbrella, and Mr. Vajpayee met Wednesday in New York with President Bush.

But in his General Assembly speech, the Indian leader gave no indication his government is inclined to take part. He said the United Nations has a crucial role to play in Iraq's political and economic reconstruction, and that this is being acknowledged now by countries that opposed military action there, and by those who he said "did not seek specific U.N. endorsement for it."

Mr. Vajpayee also strongly endorsed modernization of the U.N. system, and especially the Security Council, which he said should be enlarged and reformed so that a single county cannot block the will of the international community with a veto.

India, with a population in excess of one billion, is widely considered a logical choice for permanent Security Council membership, if the body were restructured.

Mr. Vajpayee made no specific mention of this, but said the council should include more developing countries, and that long-debated reforms should be implemented within a specific time frame.