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Alarmed World Leaders Call for Restraint over Kashmir

Worried at the explosive situation along the Indian Pakistan border in Kashmir, the Presidents of America, Russia and France attempted to calm tempers on Saturday.


Pakistani border guards patrol in Wagah, along the Pakistan-India border

US President, Bush in a telephone conversation with Pakistan’s military leader, General Musharraf, urged him to calm tensions and told Pakistan to "eliminate the extremists who seek to harm India".

Bush was referring to the two Pakistan-based militant groups that India holds responsible for a suicide attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13. Earlier New Delhi sent Pakistan a list of nearly 30 terrorists and criminals, who have taken refuge in Pakistan and are wanted for crimes committed on Indian territory.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana fears that the row could also destabilise neighbouring Afghanistan.

Putin and Chirac urge caution

Russian President Putin and French President Jacques Chirac also urged India and Pakistan in separate telephonic conversations to calm tempers as both build up troops and military equipment along their 1,800 mile long border in their row over Kashmiri militants.

Both Putin and Chirac agree that the Islamic terrorists operating from Pakistan must be weeded out. India and Pakistan must find a solution to their conflict over the strategic region of Kashmir by cooperating together to fight the menace of terrorism, they said.

Vajpayee should talk to Musharraf : Chirac

Chirac also urged the Indian Prime Minister, Vajpayee to engage in dialogue with Pakistan during the upcoming SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit in Nepal on January 4. Earlier India snubbed an offer by Musharraf to hold talks with Vajpayee during the summit.

While SAARC summits are supposed to avoid contentious bilateral issues, the special focus on terrorism at Kathmandu could prove explosive in the current Indo-Pakistan context.

Further sanctions

Meanwhile in a slight easing of its diplomatic offensive, India has said that it would allow Pakistan President Gerneral Musharraf and his delegation to fly over India to reach Kathmandu for the SAARC summit.

India has also announced that it will extend by five days a January 1 deadline it had set for halving the number of personnel in each other’s missions.

In the latest round of tit-for-tat sanctions, Pakistan has censored Indian cable television in reaction to a partial ban by India on Pakistani PTV. Pakistan claims that Indian satellite and cable television programmes contain anti-Pakistani propaganda.

Both sides stick to their stances

Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee said that India will try its utmost to avoid a war with its neighbour Pakistan in the ongoing Kashmir standoff. "We don’t want a war, but a war in the form of cross-border terrorism is being forced upon India".

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Abdul Sattar, however warned that any small action could trigger events leading to an all-out conflict.

End of "bus diplomacy"

Meanwhile the curtains came down on a couple of years of "bus diplomacy" between India and Pakistan as the last bus from the Pakistani city of Lahore quietly made its way back to the Indian capital. This was the only bus connection between the two neighbours.

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