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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK


World: South Asia

Analysis: A dialogue of the deaf?

A Pakistani protest against India: Feelings are running high on both sides

By South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

Both India and Pakistan enter the talks on Kashmir with a different agenda.

Kashmir Conflict
The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, made clear his priorites in an address to the nation on Monday.

He said the talks should concentrate solely on what measures Pakistan can take to stop what he described as the intrusion into Indian-administered Kashmir.

This uncompromising stance is likely to have been hardened by what Delhi says is the mutilation of the bodies of six soldiers that were returned by Pakistan to India on Thursday.

Delhi described it as an outrageous act in violation of international conventions, although Pakistan equally forcefully rejected the claim.

Mr Vajpayee has accused Pakistan of using force in an attempt to alter the Line of Control: something which he said has remained in place without being called into question for 27 years.

Pakistan seeks world involvement

Pakistan is likely to enter the talks wanting all aspects of the Kashmir question to be discussed.

In an interview with the BBC ealier this week, Mr Aziz stressed one of Islambad's key aims was to defuse tension along the Line of Control.

He rejected allegations made by India that Pakistan was violating the LoC.

The opposite, he said, was true: Pakistan had always respected the LoC, but India was violating it.

Islamabad is also likely to restate its frequently-made demand for international mediation in the dispute.

Islamabad will argue that it is not responsible for the incursion in Indian-administered Kashmir, which it says has been carried out by indigenous Kashmiri freedom fighters.

Trying to defuse tension

India is likely to dismiss this allegation, and re-state its equally longheld policy that that the dispute can only be solved bilaterally.

Yet even if the two sides end up repeating old arguments should the meeting go ahead, the fact that it is due to take place at all seems to indicate the desire of senior politicians in both countries to defuse tension.

There seems to be a willingness among key politicians of both countries to develop closer trade and cultural ties.

But in these areas - and others discussed when the prime ministers of India and Pakistan met in Lahore in February - the main stumbling block is the Kashmir question.

Until that is addressed, relations between the two countries will continue to remain tense.



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