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October 26, 1999
Pakistani foreign minister is a hardliner on India
Tahir Ikram in Islamabad
Pakistan's new foreign minister, Abdul Sattar, is a known hardliner on relations with arch-rival India and an uncompromising supporter of Islamabad's nuclear policy.
Pakistan's military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, appointed the retired foreign secretary last night in a new-look team of technocrats and experts to steer the nation out of bankruptcy and isolation.
Sattar faces formidable challenges, including the normalisation of ties with India, resolution of the flashpoint Kashmir dispute and allaying western fears on nuclear issues.
He is responsible for restoring Pakistan's international credibility, which was battered by last summer's infiltration of India's Kargil heights by what the ousted government said were Kashmiri freedom fighters and India said were Pakistani troops.
Western states said they too believed regular troops were involved in what came close to being the fourth Indo-Pakistani war in 52 years.
Sattar was critical of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's ousted government over its handling of the ''Kargil debacle.''
''Incalculable damage has been inflicted on Pakistan's credibility by the government's inconsistent and contradictory statements (on Kargil),'' Sattar wrote in The News in July.
He has worked twice as Pakistan's high commissioner (ambassador) to New Delhi, once between 1978 and 1982 and then from 1990 to 1992, and earned a reputation of being a hawk on India.
In the same article he said differences between India and Pakistan could not be resolved bilaterally and it was ''foolish'' of the government to have agreed in a February ''Lahore Declaration'' to try to resolve them without outside help.
In doing so he aligned himself with governments which have called in vain on India to accept third-party mediation on a dispute it says it will only discuss bilaterally.
The declaration was signed when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Sharif met in Lahore but has gathered dust since the Kargil clash.
Sattar, in a newspaper article in September, advocated minimum nuclear deterrence with India of a size which should be adjusted to ward off ''pre-emption and interception.''
He suggested that Pakistan need not follow the example of nuclear arms race between Washington and Moscow and was openly critical of the chaotic government Pakistan endured under Sharif and his predecessor Benazir Bhutto.
''The nation will have to get rid of incompetent and dishonest leaders. Military expenditure have to be contained through more innovative planning. Fortunately that is being done,'' he wrote.
Sattar, who was born in 1931, joined Pakistan's foreign service in 1953 and became the foreign secretary in 1986.
He has served in Pakistani missions in Washington, New Delhi, Moscow, Jeddah, and was foreign minister in the caretaker government of Moeen Qureshi in 1993 after Nawaz Sharif abruptly ended his government under military pressure.
Among his former colleagues, Sattar is known to have a ''firm, realistic and balanced'' approach towards regional and international issues.
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