Days after he ordered troops to the Indian border, Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Kayani on Monday stressed the need to “de-escalate” and “avoid conflict” with India.
Kayani’s statement came after a meeting with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei in Islamabad. The Chinese minister also held discussions with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Tariq Majid.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also conveyed to the visiting Chinese minister that Islamabad wanted calm.
"The President agreed on the need to avoid further vitiation of the atmosphere," an official statement said.
Majid, the military said, emphasised the need to avoid “provocative, belligerent posturing, initiation of reciprocal measures for immediate de-escalation and earliest resumption of the peace dialogue” with India.
General Kayani’s remarks were believed to be his first about the strained, post-Mumbai relationship with India, and could reassure a jittery region that Pakistan does not intend to escalate the crisis further.
Without referring specifically to the tensions, Kayani highlighted the need to de-escalate and avoid conflict in the interest of peace and security.
In a related meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, He Yafei urged India to share evidence about the Mumbai attacks with Pakistan.
The local media quoted the Chinese official as appreciating the efforts of Pakistan to normalise its relations with India.
In another development, a top official said on Monday that senior Pakistani and Indian military officers spoke over the weekend in an apparent bid to ease tensions.
The unscheduled conversation over the hotline between the nuclear-armed neighbours came after Pakistani officials said they had moved troops to the eastern border with India and cancelled leave for soldiers on active duty.
“The DGMOs talked to each other on the hotline,” a Pakistani military official told a news agency, referring to the directors general of military operations from both sides.