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June 11, 1999
Failure of talks could lead to war
George Iype in New Delhi
Pakistan's barbaric act of torturing and mutilating to death six Indian soldiers will be the major topic of discussion when External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, sit across the negotiation table tomorrow.
Notwithstanding Pakistan's rejection of India's accusations on the six slain soldiers, Singh and Aziz will spend considerable time on one of the most heinous tortures Indian jawans have ever undergone.
Releasing the post-mortem report today, the government said the Pakistani action was "a barbaric act violating all norms of decorum and civilisation".
The six soldiers' eyeballs had been gouged out and their noses, ears and genitals chopped off. The Indian Army's base hospital in Delhi carried out the post-mortem with the help of two independent observers.
"Our soldiers were subjected to very barbaric treatment and every kind of torture by Pakistan for many days. They were then brutally killed one by one about a week ago," Defence Minister George Fernandes said.
He said Pakistan had violated all values and norms of civilised behaviour and international law, and called the action "simply unpardonable".
Addressing the press on the eve of his talks with Aziz, the external affairs minister also termed the treatment meted out to the soldiers "barbaric and mediaeval". "We demand that Pakistan identify the culprits and punish them," he said.
But Singh also said India is committed to go ahead with the dialogue because "we are committed that peace should prevail".
External affairs ministry officials preparing for the dialogue said "the talks have been doomed even before they took place" because of Pakistan's devious game plan.
By keeping the Indian soldiers in custody for a week and mutilating their bodies before sending them back, Pakistan is indulging in a new strategy of putting pressure on India to take a non-conciliatory approach so as to compel international intervention in the Kargil conflict.
"We are aware that Pakistan has launched all kinds of sinister attempts to ensure that the dialogue is a failure," one official told Rediff On The NeT.
He said Pakistan's ploy is "to escalate the battle in Kargil and force international mediation on Kashmir. Then only will their biggest armed intrusion in Kashmir in the past three decades produce the results they want."
In fact, on the eve of the talks, Pakistan has stepped up the pressure on India with new revelations.
Military officials in Islamabad claimed today that the Pakistani Army is in a good position to cut off the main supply route for the Indian soldiers stationed on the Siachen glacier.
Indian officials admitted that the Pakistani intrusion across the Line of Control in the past six months has been so extensive that it will not be surprising if they block the reinforcement routes.
"Pakistan is now talking from a position of strength because their intrusion has been successful. Therefore, if the Aziz-Singh talks fail, India will be forced to act tough," the external affairs official said.
"There is only a remote chance of a breakthrough during the dialogue. Hence, we do not even rule out that the Kargil crisis can lead to a full-fledged war," the official added.
The main feature of the dialogue will be the hard stance on the LoC. Aziz will stick to Pakistan's demand for demarcating the LoC afresh. Singh will reject it outright, forcing the talks to end in a stalemate.
Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee also asserted on Friday that the LoC would never be negotiable, adding that Pakistan's intrusion in Kashmir will be the only item on the agenda for the Aziz-Singh talks.
"The LoC is clearly defined and marked on maps bearing the signatures of the representatives of both countries," he said.
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