Analysts say their diplomatic forays have helped dispel the threat of nuclear war Proving their rivalry is still intense despite recent conciliatory gestures, India and Pakistan have turned to one-upmanship in the world of international diplomacy. Just hours after Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee met former Chinese president Jiang Zemin in Beijing last week, Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf shook hands with his American counterpart, George W. Bush, at the Camp David presidential retreat. The South Asian leaders came away with differences unresolved and their region no less likely to implode over the divisive issue of Kashmir. But the new understanding gained and agreements signed were enough to convince observers the world's most determined nuclear proliferators were now less likely to use their weapons. South Asia strategic analyst Brahma Chellaney, of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, said strategic competition was sharpening in the region between India and Pakistan, and India and China. 'Each is trying to play different cards - both to engage as well as to advance national interests. That situation is fluid and will remain so for a while. There has been engagement, but we still don't have a process that is procurable or can use results that are tangible,' Mr Chellaney said. General Musharraf was yesterday ending a three-day visit to France, the final stop of a tour of western allies won from supporting the United States-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan. In Paris, Berlin and London, he won accolades for his country's efforts, but the biggest prize was in Washington, where Mr Bush promised US$3 billion in financial and military aid over the next five years and an agreement to ease trade barriers. Mr Vajpayee returned to New Delhi last Friday with nine pacts which will boost trade with China, already US$5.2 billion a year and now expected to double by 2006. One of the deals - to open two crossings on their disputed 3,200km border - is expected to usher in a new trade opportunities while easing political tensions. Each side hailed one crossing - between Tibet and the Indian state of Sikkim - as recognition of sovereignty. India refuses to recognise China's 1959 annexation of Tibet and continues to offer a safe haven to exiled Tibetans. In turn, China has never accepted that Sikkim, an independent kingdom until 1975, is part of India. Official statements during Mr Vajpayee's six-day visit failed to mention China's military and political support for Pakistan, its supplying of weapons to all of India's neighbours and the border disputes, over which a war was fought in 1962. Indian media reports said Pakistan was discussed for 'five to 10 minutes, including translation time', during the six days. General Musharraf will return to Islamabad tomorrow to discontent from hardline Islamists, unhappy the military ruler has forged close ties with the US, which led the military overthrow of governments in Muslim-majority Afghanistan and Iraq. The US senate has yet to approve the agreements, which will be conditional on the country cutting links with terrorist groups, putting economic reforms in place and allowing a steady return of democratic rule. Amid the international diplomacy, India and Pakistan are gradually moving forward on Mr Vajpayee's offer in April to move towards peace talks on Kashmir. They are restoring diplomatic and travel links and on Wednesday, Pakistani businessmen went to New Delhi for talks on improving trade ties. Mr Chellaney said the jostling for strategic advantage and a greater say in the region and world reflected global realities of a world that was changing - but in what way was unclear. 'The three main players are trying to probe how far each side's rival is willing to go,' he said. Independent Pakistani political consultant Hasan Askari Rizvi believed the South Asian leaders' meetings revealed that the US and China were concerned about the problems that existed between India and Pakistan. Because of that interest, the region had indirectly become safer. 'Over the next 15 to 20 years, while China achieves the goal of a global actor of significance, it doesn't want trouble in its neighbourhood, like war or continual tension between India and Pakistan,' he said.