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Summit Ends with Dashed Hopes

The anticipatory mood at the Asian regional summit in Kazakhstan was marred as India and Pakistan exchanged angry statements. Any chances of a breakthrough now appear bleak.

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Summit participants at the Asian security summit in Kazakhstan don't have much to smile about

The regional Asian security conference at Almaty in Kazakhstan will not after all be remembered as the place where rancorous neighbours India and Pakistan reached a breakthrough in their present tense relationship.

Far from a breakthrough, if anything the situation seems beyond hope for the moment as both India and Pakistan traded harsh words at the summit - characteristically blaming each other for the military confrontation in Kashmir.

India and Pakistan stick to their guns

The rhetoric was not new.

Asien-Gipfel in Almaty

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, left

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (photo, left) said that he would talk to Pakistan over Kashmir – long a flashpoint for tensions between the two rivals – only if cross-border infiltration of Pakistan-supported militants into Indian territory was stopped.

"On 12 January the President of Pakistan promised no organisation would be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir. But we have seen in the following months that cross-border infiltration has increased, violence in Kashmir has continued unabated and terrorist camps continue to exist across our border", he said while addressing the summit.

For his part Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf reiterated that Pakistan would not initiate a war, but would be prepared in the event of one.

Musharraf auf dem Asien Gipfel

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf

He also denounced Indian actions against what he called people’s legitimate right to freedom, in an apparent reference to the "freedom fighters" in Kashmir.

"The people of South Asia continue to pay a heavy price for the refusal by India to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with resolutions of the United Nations and the wishes of the Kashmiri people", he said.

Putin says chance of reconciliation bleak

Wladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin who is trying to mediate between the two sides said in his opening remarks to the summit, "the explosive state of relations between India and Pakistan causes deep concern. This is seriously destabilising the situation on the entire South Asian subcontinent".

The 16 Central Asian nations attending the regional security summit on Tuesday, adopted the Almaty Act, which condemns terrorism and commits its signatories not to support separatist movements.

India and Pakistan have both massed over a million troops, backed by tanks, missiles and artillery on their border in a tense deadlock over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Indian press senses a softening of hardline stances

Meanwhile in a sign of how perceptions of the India Pakistan relationship differ, the Indian press contained cautiously optimistic tones on Tuesday, hailing the breakthrough of a diplomatic relationship.

"India talks down war fever" said a headline on the front page of The Times of India, while an editorial in The Kashmir Times said, "the voices of peace and sanity have started asserting themselves in both countries".

Even The Economic Times said that India and Pakistan are "backing off from the fist-shaking belligerence that threatened to spiral out of control and drag South Asia to nuclear war".

Majority of citizens unbothered by talk of war

Several media reports also suggest that citizens both in India and Pakistan seem largely unconcerned about the threat of war looming over them.

According to a report in The Financial Times, many residents of Delhi expressed surprise at the hurried departure of foreign nationals from the country.

Most of them seem more preoccupied with everyday problems such this summer’s acute water shortage in the capital, the paper said.

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