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Tuesday, June 29, 1999 Published at 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK

World: South Asia

Analysis: The diplomatic battle for Kashmir

Lahore demonstrators show their feelings towards President Clinton

By South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

The diplomatic tussle between India and Pakistan since the latest crisis developed in Kashmir has been frantic.

Kashmir Conflict
It has been a battle in which both countries have had their successes and their failures.

Pakistan has succeeded in its long term objective of bringing the Kashmir dispute to the forefront of international attention.

India has always insisted the Kashmir dispute is a matter that can only be solved bilaterally.

But if Delhi has lost out over this issue, it has nevertheless won the moral support of several countries - including the United States - in its efforts to remove from Indian-administered Kashmir a group of armed men it describes as Pakistani-backed intruders.

[ image: Sharif: Appears to have failed to get what he wanted in China]
Sharif: Appears to have failed to get what he wanted in China
The fact that Washington has publicly supported Delhi's demand for Pakistan to use its influence to ensure their removal is something of a diplomatic triumph for India.

Only a year ago, the Clinton administration was spearheading an international campaign against India after it conducted a series of nuclear tests.

Wooing China

The visit of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to China provides a clear insight into another aspect of the diplomatic battle.

India and Pakistan are vying for the support of China, and over the past month the foreign ministers of both countries have visited Beijing.

Traditionally, China has been an ally of Pakistan. Those ties were no doubt strengthened last year, when Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes said that his country's nuclear tests were conducted principally to offset the threat to national security from China, rather than Pakistan.

However, since then India has conducted a major damage limitation exercise and has gone out of its way not to re-offend China.

Given Beijing's neutrality since the Kashmir dispute began, that strategy appears to have borne fruit.

Other tracks

Elsewhere, numerous other diplomatic offensives have taken place.

[ image: Gibson Lanpher has no specific peace plan]
Gibson Lanpher has no specific peace plan
A senior American diplomat, Gibson Lanpher, has held talks in Islamabad and Delhi. He was accompanied by the commander of the US central command, Anthony Zinni, during his talks with Pakistan.

The former Pakistani foreign secretary, Niaz Naik, recently went to India at the behest of his prime minister to discuss a possible diplomatic solution to the dispute.

The frantic diplomatic activity - like the fighting in Kashmir - looks set to continue for some time.

The Indian Foreign Secretary, K Raghunath is due in France and the UK this week to lobby support for the Indian position on Kashmir.

Pakistani diplomats meanwhile will be trying to win support for its stance from the countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, who are meeting in Burkina Faso.

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