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Canada Willing to Mediate Between India, Pakistan - 2002-01-19

Canada has urged both India and Pakistan to reduce border tensions and settle their disputes through talks. Canadian Deputy Prime Minister John Manley is in Pakistan. Mr. Manley said he discussed Pakistan's current military standoff with India during talks with Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf.

At a joint news conference with Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, Mr. Manley said Canada would like the two nations to open direct talks to resolve their long-running dispute over Kashmir.

"The best thing that can be done to resolve any issues is to talk. We will certainly be encouraging India to be in discussions with Pakistan, not just on Kashmir, but on other issues. This is the only way to make progress. Dialogue is the best way to build trust, confidence and to resolve issues in a peaceful means," he said.

Mr. Manley said his country would be willing to play a role in facilitating a dialogue on Kashmir, if asked by both India and Pakistan. Islamabad wants international mediation to solve the Kashmir dispute, and supports deployment of international observers in the region. But India has rejected any third-party involvement on Kashmir.

Mr. Manley said a peacekeeping force in Kashmir would only work with the agreement of both India and Pakistan.

"You cannot impose a peacekeeping force. Peacekeepers are effective where you have a peace that can be kept, which is based upon agreement between the parties involved. So, certainly if India and Pakistan together were to seek there to be some kind of force, and the United Nations were to agree, that would create a situation in which it could be considered," he said.

Mr. Manley will be traveling to India on Sunday for talks with leaders there. He is the third senior Western official to visit the two countries this month in an effort to ease tensions, following visits by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Tensions are running high between India and Pakistan following a deadly attack on the Indian parliament building last month. India has blamed two separatist Kashmiri groups operating from Pakistan. Both nations have massed troops on their common border, raising fears of war.

New Delhi is demanding that Islamabad turn over 20 alleged terrorists. Most of them are said to be Indian nationals.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Sattar says the government is studying the information India has provided on the suspects. But he said extradition is a complex issue.

"Neither country has any reason whatsoever to give protection to criminals. We shall examine the case of Indian nationals who are alleged to be in Pakistan, try to trace them and then take further action in accordance with merits," Mr. Sattar said.

Pakistan denies Indian charges that it is providing material support to what it calls freedom fighters in Kashmir. In recent days, the Pakistani government has moved against Islamic militant groups, including Kashmiri separatists operating from Pakistan against Indian rule in Kashmir.