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'Musharraf hedging in talks with India'
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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October 27, 2006 13:47 IST

Noting that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] is clearly 'hedging' in talks with India by allowing Kashmiri militant groups to continue to operate, a leading US think tank has asked Washington to send a consistent message to Islamabad to deny safe haven to terrorists.

The Heritage Foundation has said Washington should privately acknowlege the links between the Taliban, Al Qaeda [Images] and Pakistan groups that target India and ask Islamabad to deny a safe haven to militants regardless of whether they attack coalition forces in Afghanistan or innocent civilians in India or elsewhere.

Observing that US expectations are that Islamabad develop an equally uncompromising policy toward all three groups, it said: "This means that Pakistan must shut down training facilities associated with international terrorist incidents, including institutions run by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in Muridke and the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Bahawalpur.         

"Washington should emphasize the dangers of Islamabad's maintaining a permissive attitude toward groups that commit terrorism and remind Pakistani officials that US laws require sanctions against states that support terror groups," Lisa Curtis of the Foundation said in the paper.

The paper said the US should not try to involve itself directly in resolving the Indo-Pak dispute, but should continue to talk about the issue separately with both sides and inject ideas into their dialogue process.

"President Musharraf is clearly hedging in talks with India by allowing Kashmiri militant groups to continue to operate. The US needs to convince Musharraf to instead put his faith in the Indo-Pak dialogue," it said.

"A genuine peace process between New Delhi and a wide spectrum of Kashmiri leaders that addresses political grievances and human rights issues will also help to temper the Pakistani public's emotional reactions to Kashmir and widen public support for a genuine crackdown on violent groups," the think tank said.

"Encouraging travel back and forth across the LoC (started by the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus link) and greater interaction and cooperation between officials from both sides of the LoC will widen the constituencies for peace and help to isolate violent extremists," it said.

 The paper pointed out that Pakistani President has so far been reluctant to take concrete steps to rein in 'jehadis' that fight in Kashmir, mainly because his government believes the militancy is Islamabad's only way to keep pressure on India and to force New Delhi's hand in negotiations over the contested territory.

"New Delhi's allegations that a Pakistan-based terrorist group and Pakistan's intelligence agency were involved in the Mumbai bomb blasts could derail Indo-Pakistani bilateral talks unless Pakistan takes concrete steps to crackdown on domestic terrorist groups," it said.

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