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July 12, 1999
Sharief makes offer of talks to India
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief today renewed an offer of peace talks with India to ease tensions created by a two-month military showdown in the Kargil sector of Jammu & Kashmir state.
He made the offer to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in a national broadcast to explain his government's decision to seek the withdrawal of the intruders occupying strategic heights in Kargil.
Sharief said he wanted to use his public mandate as prime minister to give Pakistan peace and prosperity and solve the Kashmir dispute with India.
"Peace is the need also of the Indian people. India should also come forward. I ask Prime Minister Vajpayee, come let us talk. Let us save our people from the dangers of war and give them a life of peace and security. Let us sit on the conference table and search for ways for a better future," he said.
Sharief said Pakistan does not want another war with India, but could give "a knockdown answer" to any aggression.
"We are capable of giving a mouth-breaking reply to every aggression," he said to explain the government's decision to seek the withdrawal of the intruders.
"We don't want war and do not pray for it, because no victory can be found in a war between two nuclear powers," Sharief said in his first national address since agreeing on the withdrawal in Washington in talks with President Bill Clinton eight days ago.
He went on television in the face of scattered protests by Islamic fundamentalist parties and extremists against the pullout agreement.
India has given Pakistani forces until dawn on July 16 to withdraw from its territory and Pakistan's director general of military operations has agreed to the schedule.
Some terrorist groups have branded the withdrawal call a sellout, but the government says it has won American backing for the resumption of the Indo-Pak peace talks.
Sharief said the intruders who occupied strategic heights in Kashmir had fully achieved their aim to focus world attention on the issue.
He said that by agreeing to withdraw from those heights, the intruders had created a new opportunity to solve the Kashmir issue through bilateral talks and international interest in it.
He praised the so-called mujahideen (Islamic fighters) for writing a "new chapter of their sacrifices", but said their occupation of the Kargil mountains had created complications on the diplomatic front.
"I think the basic purpose of the mujahideen occupation of Kargil was to attract world attention," Sharief said.
"They have fully succeeded in that objective and they have also practically proved our stand that the Kashmir issue is a nuclear flashpoint," he said.
"By agreeing to vacate these hills on our appeal, the mujahideen have created an opportunity... for a solution of the Kashmir issue through bilateral talks," he said.
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