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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 December, 2003, 16:50 GMT
India silent on Musharraf offer
Indian soldier
India has some 700,000 security personnel in Kashmir
India's foreign ministry is making no comment after Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf proposed that both sides withdraw their troops from Kashmir.

On Monday General Musharraf told the BBC that he would pull back his troops from the divided territory if India were to do the same.

He said that moves to ease tensions with India - like restoring bus links - were "only the beginning".

Pakistan and India have fought two wars for total control over divided Kashmir.

No reactions

General Musharraf's Kashmir offer was raised at a briefing of journalists held at the Indian foreign ministry on Tuesday.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shashank's only comment was: "I don't think we are giving reactions to each statement made by Pakistan."

President Musharraf
President Musharraf answers questions from BBC listeners and web-users

However, he did express India's willingness to press ahead on other bilateral issues, including the restoration of train links.

"Today we have proposed to Pakistan December 18 and 19 as the dates for holding technical talks" on resuming train links, he said.

Mr Shashank also confirmed that Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee would attend next month's regional Saarc summit in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Mr Vajpayee has already said he hopes to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali at the summit.

But Indian officials are refusing to say whether Mr Vajpayee will hold direct talks with President Musharraf. Mr Shashank said it was difficult to comment at present on the number of meetings that will occur in Islamabad and how they will take place.

Military need

General Musharraf made his proposal for a mutual withdrawal of troops from Kashmir during a phone-in programme with BBC listeners and website users.

It came after a week of swift diplomacy in South Asia, which began with Pakistan's offer to stop daily artillery attacks along the de facto border in Kashmir, the Line of Control (LoC).

The Delhi-Lahore bus crosses the border
Peace initiatives, such as the Delhi-Lahore bus, are being pursued

Air links - severed since 2001 - were restored between India and Pakistan on Monday, and the two countries are also expected to discuss improving trade and transport ties.

But although India welcomed the ceasefire by silencing its own guns along the LoC, it has warned Pakistan it must stop militants from crossing into its part of Kashmir if the truce is to hold.

India routinely accuses Pakistan of aiding and equipping the militants fighting a 14-year-long insurgency against its rule in Kashmir - a charge Pakistan denies.

General Musharraf said it was a time for "confidence-building" moves with India, but cautioned against complacency.

The president said Pakistan would immediately withdraw the 50,000 troops it maintains in its part of Kashmir, if India were to do the same across the LoC by withdrawing its 700,000 soldiers stationed there.

Correspondents say India is unlikely to accept Pakistan's offer because its stated position is that Kashmir is a part of India and therefore India has a legitimate right to place its troops there.

India also says it needs a large military presence in Kashmir to deal with attacks by separatist militants, many of whom it says cross over from Pakistani territory.


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