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Putin: India-Pakistan Dispute Destabilizing Entire Sub-Continent - 2002-06-04

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up diplomatic efforts to try to defuse the crisis between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The latest developments are taking place on the sidelines of a regional security summit of 16 Asian nations in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Mr. Putin said Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has given him "serious positive signals" on a resolution to the military standoff over Kashmir. His comments came as he finished a round of talks with President Musharraf and as he was beginning a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Mr. Putin has been trying to engineer a face-to-face meeting between the two men during the security summit in Almaty, but so far without success. Mr. Musharraf said he has accepted an invitation to come to Moscow but that a date has not been set. He said he did not know whether Mr. Vajpayee would be there.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Mr. Putin described relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors as "explosive" and a threat to security for the entire subcontinent.

At the summit, both countries continued to blame each other for the tensions. Prime Minister Vajpayee said that Pakistan had reneged on a promise to curb cross-border raids by Islamic militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

He said Mr. Musharraf promised in January not to allow any terrorist groups to use Pakistani territory. But, Mr. Vajpayee said, cross-border infiltration increased in the following months, and terrorist camps continue to exist in Pakistan.

For his part, President Musharraf said the people of South Asia are paying a heavy price for what he called India's refusal to resolve the Kashmir issue. Mr. Musharraf said the dispute must be resolved in accordance with U.N. resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

The two countries have massed one million troops along their border since a December attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based militants fighting for control of Indian-ruled Kashmir.

Meanwhile, other diplomatic efforts are underway to persuade India and Pakistan to pull back from the brink of war.

The United States is sending two high-level envoys to meet the Indian and Pakistani leaders. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will meet with Russian President Putin in Moscow later this week to discuss the situation.