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Indian FM to Powell:  Conditions not Met for Talks with Pakistan - 2002-07-27

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who held talks with India's Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha Saturday, is on a diplomatic mission to urge India and Pakistan to open talks and ease tensions. But India has ruled out an early resumption of dialogue with Pakistan.

Indian officials say New Delhi has conveyed its strong concerns to Mr. Powell that Pakistan has failed to meet pledges to end infiltration by Muslim militants across the line of control in Kashmir.

Indian foreign ministry spokesperson, Nirupama Rao, briefed reporters after the meeting between Mr. Powell and Mr. Sinha. "Our minister referred to the fact that Pakistan's private commitment were entirely contradicted by its public pronouncements in this regard."

Mr. Sinha told Mr. Powell that Pakistan must do more to end violence by Muslim militants in Indian Kashmir before tensions between the two countries can ease.

Before meeting Mr. Powell, Mr. Sinha said he did not see the possibility of a dialogue in the present circumstances. "If the necessary conditions for talks are created we will have talks," he stressed. "But we do not think that the necessary conditions exist at present."

Pakistan says it has stepped up efforts to prevent incursions by Muslim militants into Indian Kashmir and denies any link to attacks by Muslim militants in Indian Kashmir. The issue is at the heart of their current standoff.

Indian officials say Mr. Powell expressed hopes that forthcoming state elections in Jammu and Kashmir state will be free and fair and take place without violence.

Mr. Powell meets more Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, on Sunday. He plans to talk with reporters about his visit to the region in New Delhi later in the day.

Enroute to New Delhi, Mr. Powell said the two countries need to enter a dialogue, or risk being stuck in their present standoff. But he played down the prospect of a breakthrough and said he plans to discuss with both countries when a dialogue would be appropriate. This is his third visit to the region in the last 10 months.

Meanwhile, more violence was reported from Indian Kashmir hours before Mr. Powell arrived in New Delhi. Indian officials say seven people were killed in attacks in the disputed region. Indian and Pakistani also soldiers stepped up cross-border shelling across the Kashmir border after weeks of relative calm. The two countries have massed nearly a million troops along their common borders since December.

In recent weeks, the war rhetoric has subsided, but Western envoys are stressing the need for the two countries to end their military confrontation and take steps to resolve their dispute over Kashmir.