The eight-hour visit here by Pakistan's foreign minister today appears to have done little to ease the bitter disagreement between India and Pakistan over who is responsible for the current conflict over the disputed border territory of Kashmir and what must be done to restore peace between the rival neighbors.
Before returning to Islamabad tonight, Sartaj Aziz told reporters he had "no illusions" about solving the problem in one brief visit, but added, "I refuse to be pessimistic. . . . I can say at least the chances of further escalation do not seem strong."
He said both countries have a "huge stake" in restoring the cooperative spirit established when their prime ministers met in February in Lahore, Pakistan, and that he had made some suggestions today about how that could be done.
But Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh set a far more bleak, more unyielding tone in describing his talks with Aziz. He said he had made it "very clear" to his Pakistani counterpart that Pakistan must pull back the guerrillas who occupy a portion of Indian-controlled Kashmir or there can be no diplomatic progress on solving the crisis.
"We made our position clear. The onus is on Pakistan," Singh told reporters tonight. By sending fighters into Indian Kashmir, he said, Pakistan violated the bilateral security agreement reached in Lahore "even before the ink was dry. . . . We now await their response to our demand to vacate this armed intrusion and aggression."
India and Pakistan have been engaged since mid-May in a low-level border war over Kashmir, which both countries claim. When India discovered that several hundred insurgents had infiltrated its portion of the Himalayan region, it launched airstrikes and sent thousands of ground troops to the area. The fighting has continued since.
Both sides have suffered casualties. Two Indian MiG fighter planes and a helicopter were shot down last month near the Line of Control that separates the Indian- and Pakistani-occupied parts of Kashmir, and India says Pakistani forces tortured and executed six Indian soldiers whose bodies were returned to India and buried this week.
No date has been set for further bilateral talks, and Indian officials said their military forces will continue to attack the insurgents aggressively. Military officials said Friday they are "inching forward" in their efforts to surround and drive back or kill the rebels, but that the extreme conditions and high terrain make progress slow and difficult.
The immediate stumbling block to any diplomatic solution is that India insists the insurgency is an operation of the Pakistani army, which Pakistan can and must shut down. Friday, Indian officials produced tapes of two alleged phone conversations between two top Pakistani military officials who seemed to be directing the operation and telling civilian officials what to say about it.
But Pakistan, while acknowledging this week that it has some troops inside the Indian-occupied part of Kashmir, insists that the rebels occupying positions in the mountainous Kargil region are largely Kashmiri "freedom fighters" over whom it has little control. It accuses India of being the aggressor by launching airstrikes and shelling across the Line of Control.
"As soon as Pakistan accepts that this myth making about freedom fighters is an untenable euphemism for Pakistani troops, then we can move forward," Singh said tonight. "The aggression has to be undone by military or diplomatic means, whichever applies first."
Aziz, when asked about Pakistani support for the insurgents, said, "You are talking about freedom fighters. How do you know who they are or where they come from?" Asked where the rebels had obtained their weapons and training, he said, "wherever they have been getting them for the last 10 years." He also asserted that civilian officials are "fully in control" of Pakistan's military and foreign policy.
Aziz said Pakistani forces have been "exercising restraint" in the face of Indian aggression and reiterated Pakistani denials that they had tortured and killed any Indian soldiers. He described the insurgency in Kargil as "the tip of the iceberg. . . . when people demand their rights for 50 years, they have no option but to fight."
Some countries, including China and the United States, have called on India and Pakistan to ease the Kashmir conflict and find a peaceful solution to the problem, which has plagued their bilateral relations for half a century. After Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947, the two countries disagreed on the status of Kashmir and they subsequently fought two wars over it -- in 1965 and 1971.
Both Pakistani and Indian officials said they want a peaceful solution, but India wants to limit its discussions to the current fighting in Kargil, while Pakistan hopes that the conflict will allow it to reopen the much broader issue of Kashmir's legal and political status.