November 22, 2002

Russia Seeks to Reconcile Vajpayee, Musharraf

International efforts to pull India and Pakistan back from the brink of war intensify on Monday as Russia tries to persuade leaders of the two nuclear-armed rivals to hold face-to-face talks at an Asian security conference in Kazakhstan.

Russia wants to defuse a military crisis that the world fears could spill over into a nuclear exchange that could kill millions of people and obliterate cities in both countries.

India and Pakistan have around a million troops massed along the border and their armies have exchanged regular mortar and artillery fire which has left dozens dead and driven thousands of villagers from their homes.

Despite Moscow's efforts, India says there is no prospect for a meeting between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan's military ruler Pervez Musharraf at a three-day Asian security forum starting on Monday in Almaty.

"There is no such plan," Vajpayee told reporters before leaving New Delhi.

On a stopover on his way to Almaty, Musharraf said he had proposed a meeting to Vajpayee several times, but there was no point in continuing to do so if India kept rejecting the idea.

Vajpayee and Musharraf last met in Kathmandu in January when they just shook hands and spoke briefly, despite hopes they might discuss the crisis.

Speaking in Singapore on Sunday, India's Defense Minister George Fernandes sought to calm fears of nuclear war.

"I don't think anyone should be worried about the nuclear thing. I don't know who started this," he told Reuters.

And as the United States, Britain and other Western nations evacuated diplomats and their families from India and Pakistan, Musharraf told CNN:

"I would even go to the extent of saying one shouldn't even be discussing these things, because any sane individual cannot even think of going into this unconventional war."

India is estimated to have 100 to 150 nuclear warheads and Pakistan 25 to 50. Last month, Pakistan tested ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads deep into India.

(China Daily June 4, 2002)

In This Series
India and Pakistan Avoid Face-to-Face Meet

Musharraf: Nuclear War Unlikely

Western Nations Advise Citizens to Leave India

India, Pakistan Fire Artillery in Kashmir

India Steps Up Diplomatic Offensive



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