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May 28, 1999
US summons Indian, Pak envoys
The top United States of America state department official for south Asia summoned Indian Ambassador Naresh Chandra and his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokar to separate meetings yesterday to express 'very strong concern' over the outbreak of hostilities in Kashmir.
Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth said the meetings supplemented similar meetings US diplomats in New Delhi and Islamabad have been holding in recent days with Indian and Pakistani authorities. He declined to offer details of his meetings.
He expressed hope that the two countries would move back to the Lahore process, a reference to a promising summit encounter in February between the prime ministers of the two countries.
A wire service quoted Inderfurth as having said that the very fact that (two Indian) planes have been downed ''adds up to a potentially explosive situation''.
A state department official described the incident as 'unfortunate' and said that US was trying to get the factual position about it because of the conflicting versions put out by India and Pakistan.
US officials avoided going into the claims and counter-claims about the violation of the Line of Control during the Indian operation in the Kargil sector, apparently for want of detailed information.
Another US official has said that India has not dropped any bombs on Pakistan territory.
This may come as rude shock to Pakistan which has been going hammer and tongs against India for 'attacking Pakistan territory'.
The official further said the Indian air strikes were not carried out on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control.
He also acknowledged the fact that the infiltrators, who earlier used to resort to hit-and-run tactics, were trying to occupy Indian territory for the first time.
White House spokesman Mike Hammer, voicing concern at the 'serious escalation' in fighting, said, ''We strongly believe that a solution can be found through direct discussion. It is vital that India and Pakistan should have direct talks.''
''We are actively engaged at the diplomatic front to prevent escalation in fighting, ease tension and stop fighting,'' he added.
But, the most damaging development for both India and Pakistan is Republican Senator Sam Brownback's decision to put on hold his legislation, seeking to lift economic sanctions against the two countries.
In a statement, he said he was planning to offer an amendment to lift the sanctions. ''I did so in the belief -- or, in the hope -- that bilateral relations between India and Pakistan had improved in the wake of the Lahore summit, as the summit seemed to imply,'' he added.
''Unfortunately, I was wrong,'' said Brownback, who heads the senate foreign relations committee's panel on near-east and south Asian affairs.
He said the current military action marked the most serious escalation of tensions on the Indo-Pakistani border in the last several years. ''As a result, I have reconsidered the wisdom of offering my amendment on India and Pakistan this time,'' he added.
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