Indian and Pakistani leaders will attend a regional summit on Friday as their armies stare one another down in a confrontation causing concern around the world, but they may not use the gathering to talk peace.
The nuclear-capable neighbors showed no signs of a thaw as they prepared for the three-day meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in the Nepali capital.
Neither state held out much hope that Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf would hold one-on-one talks on the sidelines of the conference for the first time since a failed summit in July.
The SAARC summit itself had been repeatedly postponed because of tensions between their states.
``I'm not here to conduct India-Pakistan relations,'' Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh told a news conference. ``We have no request or information that they want to meet us.''
On the eve of the conference, Singh released a list of requests that New Delhi has made over the past decade to Pakistan to hand over those charged with carrying out acts of terror in the country.
Among them were those India says were behind an attack on India's parliament that killed 14, including the five assailants, last month.
Musharraf, who was due in Kathmandu from Beijing on Friday, said root causes of terrorism must be addressed, and that the seven-nation SAARC must find a way to deal with contentious issues between member countries.
``In our opinion talking to each other about contentious issues is much better than refusing to discuss them,'' Musharraf said in a written answer to Nepal's state-run Rashtriya Samachar Samiti news agency that was released to reporters.
Islamabad has long demanded implementation of a 1948 United Nations resolution seeking a plebiscite to determine the future of Kashmir, the divided Himalayan region over which India and Pakistan have twice gone to war.
New Delhi considers all of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India and blames Pakistan for fomenting a 12-year-old revolt there.
It has accused two Pakistan-based guerrilla groups and Islamabad's intelligence agency of involvement in the parliament attack, which it said was meant to wipe out India's entire political leadership.
Islamabad denies involvement and has asked New Delhi for evidence.
Since the attack, the two states, which each conducted a nuclear test in 1998, have carried out their largest military buildups on the border since independence from Britain in 1947 and New Delhi has said all options are open if Islamabad does not stop what it calls ``cross border terrorism.''
The two sides have traded fire repeatedly across the line of control dividing Kashmir. Within Kashmir, Islamic guerrillas ambushed the Indian army, killing two soldiers and wounding seven on Wednesday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, due to visit India and Pakistan and enlisted by US President George Bush to try to nudge the two toward talks, warned of ``enormous problems'' for global stability if the situation gets out of hand.
In the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka at the start of his tour, he said he would try to exert a calming influence.
``The dangers...are obvious. Two very powerful countries in an area where traditionally there has been a lot of conflict and instability. It's extremely important given the military capability of both powers that we do everything we can to calm the situation,'' Blair said.
The SAARC conference begins on Friday with speeches by the heads of the seven states that make up the grouping.
Besides Indian and Pakistan, the members are Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan. The leaders were to hold a retreat on Saturday at a hill station outside Kathmandu.
Within Kashmir, Islamic guerrillas ambushed the Indian army, killing two soldiers and wounding seven.
(China Daily January 4, 2002)