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India: New Delhi Will Follow If Pakistan Reduces Tensions First - 2002-05-28

India's Foreign Minister has said his country will reciprocate if it becomes clear that Pakistan is taking steps to end what he calls cross-border terrorism in Indian-administered Kashmir. Diplomatic efforts to ease the crisis between South Asia's two nuclear neighbors are intensifying.

India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh responded Tuesday to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's Monday speech, calling General Musharraf's remarks disappointing and dangerous, but holding out the possibility of a diplomatic solution to the crisis that has brought the two countries to the brink of war.

At a New Delhi news conference, Mr. Singh refused to say how long India will wait for Pakistan to respond to its calls for an end to what New Delhi calls cross-border terrorism, and the permanent closing of militant camps in the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. However, Mr. Singh did say if Islamabad responds positively, New Delhi will reciprocate.

"India cannot continue to be punished for its patience. But I have also said that if on the ground that we find action has been taken, and it is irreversible action, then as I have said, were General Pervez Musharraf to act on his own assurances, then India will reciprocate," Mr. Singh said.

Indian officials routinely accuse Pakistan of controlling the separatist militants in Indian Kashmir, a charge officials in Pakistan continue to deny.

Mr. Singh would not say what measures his government would take if Pakistan responds positively. He said India is actively pursuing diplomatic measures to ease tensions, but he said New Delhi would, in his words, continue to take such measures as are necessary, if diplomatic activity fails to have an effect on Islamabad.

Brahma Chellaney is a professor of security studies at New Delhi's Center for Policy Research. He said senior officials like Jaswant Singh are willing to give diplomacy a chance to achieve their goals, but only up to a point.

"For Indians, and this is the consensus in the thinking in the government, from what I can gather, the costs of inaction today are far higher than the costs of action. So there is a momentum here to settle matters once and for all. Now, this does not mean that the Indians are going to act rashly or recklessly the way things are going the Indians might employ military force to make the diplomacy yield results that is if U.S. diplomacy fails to deliver results in the coming days or weeks," Mr. Chellaney said.

India's foreign minister ruled out talks between the leaders of India and Pakistan at a scheduled summit of central Asian leaders next week. He also refused to say what military options, if any, India is contemplating against Pakistan - but he did say the presence of U.S. troops in the region was not an inhibiting factor in New Delhi's standoff with Islamabad.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Jaswant Singh repeated India's stated nuclear doctrine of no first use of nuclear weapons in any conflict. He criticized Pakistan's President, for what he called, speaking casually about nuclear war and nuclear weapons, something he said his government has never done.