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India-Pak Tensions Have Eased, But More Work Needed, British Official Says - 2002-07-19

India has ruled out further steps to end its military standoff with Pakistan until Islamabad stops the entry of Islamic rebels into Indian Kashmir. The statement came as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw held talks with Indian leaders in New Delhi. Mr. Straw said tensions have eased between India and Pakistan but remain difficult.

After a day of talks with senior Indian leaders, Mr. Straw said both countries need to do more to reduce tensions. "We are glad to note the progress that has been made which has helped to reduce the level of tension across the line of control. Obviously there are further steps that need to be taken before we can secure the situation where there can be an active dialogue," Mr. Straw said.

The comment came after meetings with Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha, and national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra.

Mr. Straw said one of the keys to a peaceful solution remains a permanent end to infiltration of Muslim militants from Pakistani territory into India. He said both countries are committed to a peaceful solution.

But New Delhi said it has strongly conveyed to Mr. Straw that it will not take any further steps to de-escalate tensions, because Pakistan has not fulfilled pledges of ending infiltration or dismantling militant training camps in its territory.

Last month, India recalled its warships, and lifted a ban on overflights for Pakistani civilian aircraft, raising hopes that tensions between the two countries could be resolved.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao told reporters India is not contemplating any more moves to defuse tensions. "Unless we see Pakistan take visible, credible action to end infiltration, and to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, an atmosphere conducive either for resumption of dialogue or for taking appropriate de-escalatory measures will not be created," Ms. Rao said.

Indian officials said infiltration by Muslim militants is on the rise after a brief lull. They said in the latest such incident five Muslim separatists were shot dead Friday while trying to cross into Indian Kashmir from Pakistani territory.

Meanwhile Mr. Straw urged India to improve its human rights record in Kashmir, and ensure that forthcoming state elections in the insurgency-wracked region are free and fair.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell visits the region later in the month to continue diplomatic efforts to ease the crisis between India and Pakistan.

Both countries have massed nearly a million troops along their borders, and have been on the brink of war twice in recent months, once after an attack by suspected Islamic militants on India's parliament in December, and later in May after an attack on an army camp in Indian Kashmir.