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June 29, 1999
France supports Indian stand on KargilRanvir Nayar in Paris
Another front in the battle for Kargil has opened in Europe as both India and Pakistan try their diplomatic best to convince European powers about their respective stands in the conflict.
Round one in this battle has clearly gone to India, with the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary K Raghunath to Paris and London this week. Raghunath spent the entire Monday in Paris along with his aides from the external affairs ministry and the Indian ambassador to France, Kanwal Sibal.
"It has been a very satisfactory round of talks. It reiterates the value that both India and France attach to this relationship,'' Raghunath said soon after the talks at Quai d'Orsay, the seat of the French Ministere des Affaires Etrangers.
During the talks, which took place just a week before the Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz's visit to Paris, India explained its position on the Kargil issue and the reasons why it needs to carry on with the military option till either the Pakistanis pulled back or the occupying forces were thrown out. Kargil was up there in the agenda, even though the talks were part of the regular annual secretary-level negotiations between India and France.
The Pakistani minister's visit too was scheduled much before the Kargil crisis began. Yet, since the talks will be held in the backdrop of the war-like situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the discussions are bound to veer to the situation there.
And hence India used the opportunity to not just explain its position in the conflict, but also dispel some of the fears that have been raised by Pakistan, especially the talk about escalation and even a nuclear conflict.
"We explained the nuances of the issue, especially in the light of Pak propaganda,'' highly placed diplomatic sources said. ''Pakistan hopes that by talking of escalation and a wider or even a nuclear conflict, they will be able to attract international attention and perhaps get the international community to mediate and find a solution to Kashmir.''
According to sources, India impressed upon the French that the whole crisis has been engineered by Pakistan and the only way out was an unconditional withdrawal by Pak-backed intruders. Once the intruders pull out, India will be willing to resume the Lahore process and find a peaceful solution to all issues.
Sources said the talks in Paris were held in a cordial atmosphere and reflected the strong understanding between India and France that has existed since the visit of French President Jacques Chirac to New Delhi last year.
France was unambiguous about the necessity of an unconditional withdrawal by Pakistani forces and was also firmly against any internationalisation of the issue.
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