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Indian PM rejects no-nukes pact

Vajpayee: India's nuclear arms program not just to match Pakistan

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Despite a push for peace in Kashmir, violence and instability remains rife in the region. CNN's Satinder Bindra reports (May 8)
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CNN's Ash-har Quraishi has more on the visit of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who is in Pakistan at the start of a South Asian tour aimed at bolstering peace overtures between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan (May 8)
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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India's prime minister has rejected Pakistan's offer of mutual nuclear disarmament, but told his parliament that "friendship with Pakistan" was in both nations' best interests.

In a flurry of new overtures toward peace on the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, suggested over the weekend that his country and India could mutually tear down their nuclear weapons programs after other issues are resolved.

But Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said the purpose of his country's nuclear arms program was not just to match Pakistan's.

"This proposal is not acceptable to us," Vajpayee said. "Pakistan's nuclear program is India-specific, but we are not just worried about Pakistan. We are also concerned about the situation in countries around us."

Vajpayee also said that Musharraf's suggestion of a "no-war" pact should include the Kashmiri separatists battling Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region. Pakistan denies India's claim that they are backing the militants.

The prime minister also stressed the value of friendship between neighbors.

"I have often told Pakistani leaders that we can change friends but not neighbors," the prime minister said. "One way is to remain as friends, and the other is to fight and let the world laugh at us.

"That is why we should establish friendship with Pakistan."

Hoping to build on the thaw in India-Pakistan relations, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage Thursday met with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad as part of a tour of southern and central Asian nations.

The American diplomat said his meetings covered "a full range of international issues," including preparations for Musharraf to visit Washington, but insisted he had not come to the region to push the two nations to agree to a U.S.-brokered peace.

"The United States does not have a proposal in that regard," he said.

"The discussions that I've been honored to have will be faithfully conveyed to our friends in India and they can decide how they feel about it. I want to dispel you of the notion that there's pressure from the United States. That is not the case."

Tensions over Kashmir remain the key sticking point in building a lasting peace.
Tensions over Kashmir remain the key sticking point in building a lasting peace.

The thaw between India and Pakistan started last month when Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali called Vajpayee -- the first contact between the leaders in 18 months -- and said he was ready to resolve all issues between the countries.

The Indian PM reciprocated that he was willing to open talks with Pakistan on Kashmir, providing Islamabad stops what he called "cross-border infiltration" into the Indian part of Kashmir.

Pakistan announced the restoration of full diplomatic relations and other measures with India Tuesday and called for "sustained dialogue" between the two nations, which share a 1,800-mile border.

Musharraf assured Armitage that Pakistan was not helping terrorists. "President Musharraf gave an absolute assurance that there was nothing happening across the Line of Control, that there were no camps in (Pakistani-controlled) Kashmir, and if there were camps they would be gone tomorrow," Armitage said.

India blames Pakistan for arming, training and encouraging cross-border militancy that has claimed more than 30,000 lives in the Himalayan territory since a separatist movement took root in 1989.

Pakistan denies the charge and insists it provides only moral and diplomatic support for the Kashmiri people's right to self-determination.

India controls two-thirds of the Himalayan Kashmir region, Pakistan the other third. Each country claims Kashmir as its own.

India has also called for substantive progress on trade and economic cooperation to make the next regional summit meaningful.

Armitage's schedule will also take him to Afghanistan and India by the weekend.

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