As the international community kept up the pressure to ease tensions between the leaders of India and Pakistan at a regional summit in Kazakhstan today, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf refused to renounce first use of nuclear weapons.
At a regional security summit in the Kazakh city of Almaty, Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee sat at the same table for the first time in months, but did not speak to each other — at least not directly.
The tensions between the two South Asian nations dominated the 16-nation security meeting as Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a bid to negotiate the current dangerous impasse between the two nuclear rivals.
But hours after the two leaders made belligerent speeches at the summit, there was little sign of hope for diplomats working to pull the two countries back from the brink of war.
Speaking to reporters in Almaty today after a meeting with Putin, Musharraf stressed that Pakistan would not change its policy on the contentious "first use" of nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict with India.
"The possession of nuclear weapons by any state obviously implies they will be used under some circumstances," he said.
India had earlier reaffirmed its policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, a policy Putin told reporters the Indian prime minister had repeated during their talks on the sidelines of the summit today.
The rising tensions between the two countries over the disputed Kashmir region came as the United States was expected to issue a statement strongly urging and strongly recommending U.S. citizens to leave the region. Last week the State Department encouraged non-essential diplomats as well as U.S. citizens in India to voluntarily leave the country.
India: Pakistan Didn’t Keep Its Promises
Meanwhile, at the summit in Almaty today, Putin persisted in his efforts to calm tensions in the region as he held separate talks with the two leaders and invited Musharraf to Moscow.
The Pakistani leader told reporters he had accepted the invitation.
Speaking at the summit, Putin said the situation in Kashmir could only be resolved through a display of restraint by both leaders.
But restraint was in short supply at the opening session as Musharraf and Vajpayee angrily blamed each other for the deteriorating situation in Kashmir.
In his speech to the summit, Vajpayee said Pakistan had kept none of the promises it has repeatedly made.
"On Jan. 12, the president of Pakistan promised no organization would be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir... We have seen in the following months that cross-border infiltration has increased, violence in Kashmir has continued unabated and terrorist camps continue to exist across our border."
Earlier, Islamabad denied that such camps exist on its side of the border.
Musharraf responded by accusing India of refusing to resolve the Kashmir dispute "in accordance with resolutions of the United Nations and the wishes of the Kashmiri people."
The Pakistani leader again pledged that his country would not initiate a war, and maintained that, "Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist acts outside or inside its boundaries."
He also made a veiled reference to India when he accused governments of sponsoring "state terrorism."