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India Denies It Will Offer Concessions to Pakistan Over Kashmir - 2004-09-21


The Indian government is denying a news report that it might offer territorial concessions to Pakistan in the dispute over Kashmir. The denial comes just days before the leaders of the two countries are to meet in New York.

The controversy was created by a Time magazine report saying that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will offer a small territorial concession on Kashmir to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

The article quotes an unnamed Indian official as saying that India is willing to adjust the so-called Line of Control in Kashmir, a military cease-fire boundary, to help defuse tensions over Kashmir.

In an e-mailed statement, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna called the report completely inaccurate. Mr. Sarna is traveling with the prime minister, who stopped in London before going to New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting.

The statement says Mr. Singh is looking forward to discussing all matters of bilateral interest with President Musharraf in New York, but there is no question of offering any territorial concessions.

A Time magazine spokeswoman in London said Tuesday the magazine stands by the story, but was unable to comment further immediately.

Political analyst Raju Santhanam said the incident shows that a resolution to the Kashmir dispute remains a long way off. "The way I look at it is that this is the maximum that the hardliners here in new Delhi are prepared to offer to Pakistan, which Pakistan will not accept in any case," he said.

Both countries hold part of Muslim-majority Kashmir but claim it in full. They have fought two wars over the region. Political analysts have said some kind of territorial adjustment could eventually lead to normalization of relations between the two nuclear rivals but that such a settlement would be difficult to reach.

More than 40,000 people have died in separatist violence in Indian Kashmir over the past 15 years. India has accused Pakistan of supporting the separatists, a charge Islamabad denies.

Since January, the two governments have held a series of meetings and taken several steps to ease tensions. But so far no apparent progress has been made on the Kashmir dispute.

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