November 22, 2002

Pakistan to Defuse India Tensions With new Policy

Senior US Senator Joseph Lieberman Tuesday said he believed Pakistan's new plan to combat militancy will defuse the dangerous stand off with India when it is unveiled this week.

After talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, the former vice presidential candidate said he believed the blueprint to fight extremism will play a "critically important" role in ending the crisis.

"He is reaching for a speech to the Pakistani people... that will change the history of this country," said Lieberman, the Democrat senator who is touring Central Asia with a nine-member bipartisan group of US lawmakers.

"I hope and believe that (his remarks) will be... so bold and principled and fresh that they will encourage a response from the Indian government," he told reporters.

"Most particularly, I am hopeful that both nations... will move some of their troops on the border between India and Pakistan away from the border."

Lieberman said the proximity of the two national armies, who are in battle-ready positions either side of the frontier that divides the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir, was a cause for great concern.

"I think (Musharraf) is searching for a fresh initiative that will not only reduce the tensions that exist now between Pakistan and India, but will begin a whole new chapter in the Kashmir dispute."

Musharraf has said he will address the nation in the next few days to unveil steps to establish "some degree of normalcy, balance, introducing a tolerant society (and) checking any form of militancy within our society."

The regional crisis erupted last month after an attack on India's parliament which New Delhi blames on two Pakistani-based militant groups.

However, Pakistan's efforts to rein in extremists, including the arrest of the leaders of both groups an 100 of their supporters, has been dismissed by India as window-dressing.

(China Daily January 10, 2002)

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