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NEW DELHI, May 29: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw assured India on Wednesday that Pakistan was serious about ending the cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, as he held talks to defuse tensions between the nuclear-armed powers.

As heavy shelling pounded the disputed border in Kashmir, Straw said Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf genuinely wanted to stop what India calls “cross-border terrorism” in the Himalayan region.

“I believe that General Musharraf is serious, but the test of everything is action on the ground,” Straw told a press conference midway through talks with Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

But Singh again said India was growing impatient with Musharraf, despite the Pakistan leader’s statement this week that infiltration was not taking place.

“General Musharraf has had all the time that he wants since September 11,” Singh said. “It is vital that he sees the urgency of the situation.”

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, speaking to his Japanese counterpart Junichiro Koizumi on telephone, said New Delhi would like “to walk along the path of peace.”

“It is absolutely necessary to avoid a war, but there is a limit to our patience,” Vajpayee said, according to a Japanese foreign ministry official.

A string of foreign officials are visiting the two countries in hopes of preventing what would be the first full-scale war between nuclear-armed states.

In addition to the British and Japanese envoys, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Safonov visited Islamabad on Tuesday.

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will fly to the region next week, following a blitz of telephone diplomacy by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to arrange face-to-face talks between Musharraf and Vajpayee when they attend a regional conference from June 3 to 5 in Kazakhstan.

But the Indian foreign minister has ruled out such a meeting, saying there can be no dialogue with Pakistan until it shuts down “terrorism camps” in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.—AFP