DATE=12/16/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=YEARENDER- INDIA - PAKISTAN NUMBER=5-45018 BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: 1999 was a year of turmoil in South Asia. After a promising beginning, relations between South Asia's two biggest countries, India and Pakistan deteriorated to their lowest point in years. As we hear from VOA's Jim Teeple in this yearend report, since both countries now possess nuclear weapons the world paid attention in 1999 when India and Pakistan came close to fighting their fourth war. Text: It all began with a cricket match in January. For the first time in a decade, Pakistani cricket players traveled to India to play their Indian counterparts. While right-wing nationalists threatened to disrupt the matches, their threats never materialized and it seemed that as the year began the goodwill generated by the "friendship series," of cricket could set a new tone for India Pakistan relations. The "friendship series" of cricket was soon followed by an even more dramatic goodwill gesture. India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced he would travel to the Pakistani city of Lahore on a bus - to meet and talk with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. On the eve of Mr. Vajpayee's trip his foreign minister Jaswant Singh said India was willing to discuss all issues with its traditional rival. // SINGH ACTUALITY // Any proposal that is put forward and which is aimed at enhancing amity and friendship and which is directed at the welfare of the two peoples and countries shall be given the most serious consideration. // END ACTUALITY // Less than a year earlier both India and Pakistan had conducted nuclear tests and in Lahore both leaders agreed to try and reduce the risk of an accidental nuclear conflict - as well as agreeing to give advance notification of ballistic missile flight tests. Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Sharif also agreed to intensify efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue. The territory of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both countries claim it as their own. India controls two thirds of Kashmir and Pakistan one third. Indian newspapers were upbeat following the talks. The Times of India said "the ice has been broken between India and Pakistan," while the Pioneer Newspaper said both countries had taken a "quantum leap" towards peace. The public in both India and Pakistan was also upbeat. // OPT // Shopping at New Delhi's crowded Connaught Place, A-K Singh, a young businessman said he especially welcomed the talks since both countries had conducted nuclear tests the previous year. // OPTIONAL SINGH ACTUALITY // I think this is the biggest, or is going to be the biggest development in relations between India and Pakistan. After the nuclear tests, things were harsh, now they are going to mellow, and India - Pakistan relations should improve in a historical way. // END OPTIONAL ACTUALITY // Others however were not so optimistic. 85 year-old Jugal Kishore Khanna, a retiree also shopping at Connaught Place had witnessed the partition of the subcontinent between India and Pakistan. Mr. Khanna had also lived through the three wars both countries had fought since independence fifty years earlier. He said the issue of who controls Kashmir would continue to divide the two nations despite the goodwill generated in Lahore. // OPTIONAL KHANNA ACTUALITY // The question of Kashmir will still be there. I hope they do something but I don't think there is any solution to that at present. // END OPTIONAL ACTUALITY // Mr. Khanna's pessimism turned out to be well founded. // END OPT // Initial optimism that the talks would lead to better relations faded quickly. Just two months after Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif met in Lahore an Indian army squad on patrol high in the mountainous Kargil region of Kashmir stumbled into a group of heavily armed guerrilla infiltrators on the Indian side of the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir. As it later became clear, even as Mr. Sharif and Mr. Vajpayee were sitting down to talk in Lahore, small bands of guerrilla infiltrators were making their way into Indian territory from the Pakistan side of the Kashmir border. The guerrilla infiltrators occupied a series of high ridges and began shelling the main east-west highway in Kashmir. In an instant the optimism generated by the Lahore meeting was gone. Pakistan denied being behind the operation saying it only offered diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiri separatists. Prime Minister Vajpayee rushed tens of thousands of troops to the region and as fighting intensified between the Indian army and the guerrilla infiltrators he warned the conflict was dangerous for both countries. // VAJPAYEE ACTUALITY // It is a serious situation. It is a situation that is fraught with danger. It is a situation that has arisen from one simple fact -- the decision of Pakistan to cross the line of control, to send its men and material to occupy our territory. No government can tolerate such an incursion and our government certainly will not. // END ACTUALITY // News of the fighting in Kashmir came just as both India and Pakistan were marking the one-year anniversary of their nuclear tests. Just one month earlier both countries had tested mid-range ballistic missiles sparking fears of an all-out arms race in South Asia. Governments around the world urged India to show restraint and not cross the Line of Control and attack Pakistan. In the end India heeded the calls for restraint and in the process gained the diplomatic high ground. Following talks in Washington, Prime Minister Sharif agreed to work to withdraw the infiltrators and diplomats around the world breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that the world's two newest nuclear powers would not go to war. // REST OPT // Even when it became clear that India and Pakistan would not go to war over Kashmir in 1999 debate continued in India over whether New Delhi really needed a nuclear deterrence. Following the 1998 nuclear tests both India and Pakistan were slapped with economic sanctions. Some in India also argued that their country - a traditional advocate of global disarmament in international forums -- had lost its moral authority to speak on such issues. Kanti Bajpai a prominent New Delhi academic said India's nuclear tests had locked his country into a difficult and costly arms race with its neighbors. // BAJPAI ACTUALITY // The bomb locks you into a more difficult and more costly arms race in fact because everyone has to respond to everyone else's missile and nuclear program and changes. In fact the claim that nuclear tests give you strategic independence is a perverse one - it gives you the opposite. It locks you into a kind of treadmill that you cannot get off. // END ACT // Others disagreed. Commodore Uday Bhaskar an active duty Indian Navy officer and prominent defense analyst said India needed a nuclear deterrence. // BHASKAR ACTUALITY // India should stay the course. This is not a time for us to be apologetic. There is nothing that India has done that warrants any kind of apology. Neither is it a time for euphoria. We have to stay the course in terms of being committed to deterrence but we have qualified it as minimum credible deterrence. We are not talking about thousands of weapons. // END ACTUALITY // Later in the year India issued what it called a draft nuclear policy - outlining a ballistic missile defense - based on land, sea and air missile systems. The draft also outlined the circumstances under which India would use nuclear weapons -- saying India would only do so in retaliation -- after a nuclear first strike. Pakistan immediately criticized the draft policy, calling it provocative. Just a few weeks later on the eve of Prime Minister Vajpayee's swearing in to a second term as Prime Minister, his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a bloodless coup. Mr. Vajpayee and other senior Indian officials called the coup in Islamabad a matter of grave concern. Despite their differences, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif enjoyed a personal chemistry - a chemistry Mr. Vajpayee is not known to share with Pakistan's new military leader Pervez Musharraf. (Signed) neb/jlt/plm 16-Dec-1999 07:59 AM EDT (16-Dec-1999 1259 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .