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Pakistan Pledges to Withdraw Troops from Kashmir if India Also Withdraws - 2002-06-17

Pakistan says it will withdrawal troops from along the tense border with India if India will take such a step. Speaking at a weekly news conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said that once New Delhi starts withdrawing its forces, Islamabad will reciprocate.

"We were obliged to send our forces to forward positions only in defensive posture after India deployed its forces," he said, "We will certainly reciprocate that particular gesture. I think it is a very desirable thing. It should be done immediately, that [India] start withdrawing their forces."

In recent months, India and Pakistan have mobilized more than a million soldiers along their border, raising fears of another conflict over the disputed Kashmir region. The latest tensions stem from India's allegations that Pakistan-based Muslim militants are engaged in "cross-border terrorism" in Indian Kashmir. Pakistan denies the allegations it supports the militants.

Both India and Pakistan have come under intense international pressure to take steps to reduce chances of another war.

New Delhi has recently lifted air restrictions on Pakistani civilian plans and has recalled its warships deployed near Pakistan. Foreign Ministry spokesman Khan says these steps have helped improve the situation, but he says that India must pull back forces if there is a chance to reduce the risk of a conflict.

"So long as the forces are deployed in their forward positions in an offensive posture," he commented, "the situation will remain tense. And so long as a meaningful dialogue, which discusses the cause of all that, the core issue [of Kashmir] is not discussed, these little cosmetic measures here and there, they are welcomed, but they do help in a very minor manner."

Mr. Khan says Pakistan is still considering when to resume commercial over flights that India allowed to resume last week. He also said that Pakistan has not yet informed India about the appointment of a new ambassador. Until that happens, he says, Pakistan will not send its ambassador back to New Delhi.