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|June 30, 1998||
Resolve Kashmir or risk a war, Pak foreign minister tells UN
Pakistan's foreign minister Gohar Ayub has urged the United Nations to move quickly to mediate the Kashmir problem or risk a fourth war between the world's newest nuclear powers of Pakistan and India.
In an interview, Ayub said relentless cross-border attacks in the Kashmir could quickly spin out of control and erupt into a full-blown war.
"The danger is there of cross-border raids or hot pursuit. This is a strong possibility," said Ayub. "That would be responded to by us sharply and aggressively."
He said Pakistan already has made "elaborate plans that if Indian aircraft should come into Pakistan's airspace we would retaliate quickly and decisively."
Ayub said it is likely that a fourth war between the two unfriendly neighbours would result in the use of nuclear weapons -- a worry that has prompted the peace mission by Alvaro de Soto, UN assistant secretary general for political affairs.
de Soto, who arrived in Pakistan from Bangladesh, is in the region to try to defuse tensions heightened by last month's testing of nuclear weapons by both Pakistan and India.
He cancelled a trip to India after New Delhi said he was not welcome.
India has flatly rejected international mediation.
Ayub said his message for the UN was a simple one: "What they should do is come down very hard on India," he said forcing New Delhi to agree to a third-party mediator.
Ayub said the success record of bilateral talks between India and Pakistan has been grim.
Between June 1997 and January 1998, Pakistan and India held eight separate negotiation sessions involving Prime ministers, foreign secretaries and foreign ministers, said Ayub.
"The end result was nil... we have no success with bilateral talks," he said. "They are just a futile exercise... that we have tried over and over again."
Still Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief has agreed to meet his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Sri Lanka on July 29 at a summit of South Asian regional countries.
Ayub predicted another failure.
"I don't foresee much success in Colombo," he said.
Ayub says he does not have much faith in the West's ability to read the situation in South Asia, saying it did not see India's readiness to conduct a nuclear test, nor does it see the futility of bilateral talks.
"The unfortunate part is that the West does not really gauge the situation," he said. "Their assessments are always very superfluous."
Even the partition of the subcontinent, which resulted in the creation of Pakistan as a homeland for the Muslims of the area, was mediated by the British, Ayub said.
"Even the partition of India and Pakistan... if the British would not have been there to resolve the issue, we would have fought until the last Hindu and Muslim and still without resolution," he said.
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