NEW DELHI, Jan 8: The Directors-General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan held their weekly talks on a dedicated hotline on Tuesday, keeping alive hopes of peace and hinting that war clouds were now not gathering even if they might take some more time to completely thin out from the horizon, official sources told Dawn.

The sources said the two DGMOs did not see “any gathering of war clouds despite the tense border situation.”

No further details of the conversation between the two DGMOs were immediately available, yet there were other fair hints to enable a reasonable surmise that discussions between the two countries, not war, was the preferred choice of both.

The first hint came on Tuesday from visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres who told a news conference: “I don’t see the Indians as trigger-happy”.

He was speaking after a long meeting with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and, perhaps more importantly, with Home Minister Lal Krishan Advani, seen otherwise as an anti-Pakistan hawk.

Mr Advani later left for the United States for a string of meetings with senior officials to sort out the terror mess between India and Pakistan and, of course, to seek closer defence and intelligence ties.

The other hint of a peaceful end to the present standoff came with the announcement of an overdue visit to New Delhi by Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji now scheduled to be in India for six days from Jan 13.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said Mr Zhu would be visiting India with his wife Madame Lao An on the invitation of Mr Vajpayee. The Chinese Premier would also visit Agra, Mumbai and Bangalore, the spokesperson said.

Further indications of diplomatic pressure on India to desist from contemplating war with Pakistan came from usually credible Indian news reports.

The Indian Express said the United States was keeping “a hawk eye on the stand-off between India and Pakistan and in pursuit of its policy to cool temperatures is likely to send Secretary of State Colin Powell to New Delhi towards the end of the month”. It said even as Mr Advani begins his visit to Washington — followed soon by Defence Minister George Fernandes — the diplomatic calendar over the next six weeks seems packed with exchanges between India and the US.

“From Henry Kissinger and vice-president of the National Defence Academy Robin Raphael, a former State Department pointperson for South Asia whom the New Delhi establishment loved to hate for her disavowal of Kashmir’s accession to India, who arrive here next weekend as guests of the CII, to the US joint chief of staff John Myers expected here in February, the bilateral engagement has never been more full,” the Express noted.

Then there’s the Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism being held on Jan 21-22, led by National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra and Frank Taylor. And by the time Mr Fernandes returns from his tour where he would be feted by his counterpart Donald Rumsfeld, it may be time for New Delhi to receive Senator Joseph Biden, the tough-talking Democrat from Washington, the Express said.

“One single message is likely to be repeated by New Delhi’s representatives to all their American interlocutors: Allow General Musharraf the opportunity as well as time to save face with his own people if you must, but persist with the pressure on him to crack down on terrorism and end Pakistan’s support to the ‘proxy war’ in Kashmir,” the newspaper said.

It said a quid pro quo for the US action against Pakistan, “may well, in the short term, be a promise of restraint on New Delhi’s part against Islamabad, no hot pursuit across the LoC, certainly no war, and in the long term, greater US involvement in the Kashmir dispute.”

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