Vajpayee under pressure to talk to Musharraf

International efforts to pull India and Pakistan back from the edge of nuclear war appeared to stall again today as the Indian premier refused to hold talks with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf.

International efforts to pull India and Pakistan back from the edge of nuclear war appeared to stall again today as the Indian premier refused to hold talks with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf.

Both leaders are attending a regional security summit Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Musharraf said he had proposed talks on the disputed province of Kashmir, but Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said he had won support for his stance from the Central Asian leader hosting the 16-nation summit.

Vajpayee has said there can be no talks until Islamabad clamps down on cross-border terrorist attacks, which New Delhi blames on militants supported by Pakistan.

‘‘We share identical views on what measures should be taken to resolve the crisis, ‘‘Vajpayee said after meeting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

However, he did not elaborate on his brief remarks, other than to express ‘‘faith that there would be no encouragement to those elements who believe in terrorism or religious extremism.’’

En route to Kazakhstan, where he was to arrive later today, Musharraf insisted that Pakistan would not start a war with India.

He said in the Tajik capital Dushanbe yesterday that he was prepared for talks with India ‘‘anywhere and at any level’’.

‘‘Pakistan will not start a war,’’ he said. ‘‘We support solving the conflict through peaceful means.’’

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other members of the 16-nation Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia were scheduled to meet both leaders separately today and tomorrow to encourage them to talk face-to-face.

The crisis revolves around Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan. The dispute has led to two of the three wars between the nations since they won independence from Britain in 1947.

Later this week, Washington is sending two envoys - Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage - to try to ease the tensions.

Washington is worried that the standoff over Kashmir, where a million troops face each other over the line of control, could threaten its operations against al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives it believes have fled into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Maleeha Lodhi, yesterday denied that her nation was moving large numbers of troops from the Afghan border, where they are supposed to prevent infiltration by Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists, to Kashmir.

‘‘As yet, no significant movement has taken place, but of course if the situation continues to worsen, we will have to move more,’’ she told CNN, adding ‘‘that is why the international community must act in every possible way to restrain India from trying to follow a military solution.’’

Meanwhile, British, US and other foreign nationals continued their exodus from India and Pakistan amid concern that the military standoff could escalate into a full-fledged war.

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