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India believes U.S. pressure on Pakistan is working

India believes U.S. pressure on Pakistan is working

Author: Shibi Alex Chandy, Indo-Asian News Service
Publication: Yahoo News
Date: September 13, 2002
URL: http://in.news.yahoo.com/020913/43/1v6p6.html

It was a day that began with the Indian delegation accompanying Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee being seemingly on their guard, if not on the defensive.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had finished his address to the 57th session of the United Nations General Assembly Thursday, launching an anti-India tirade that was unusually virulent with references to Kashmir and Gujarat.

United States President George W. Bush appeared totally focused on his proposed action against Iraq, having seemingly forgotten the terrorism that New Delhi says is being fostered by Islamabad in strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir.

Could the delegation expect anything positive from the meeting scheduled between Vajpayee and Bush? The underlying feeling suggested the answer was a tentative "no."

By the end of the day, however, there was a spring in the step of the Indian officials and diplomats accompanying the prime minister on his six-day visit to New York. Their relief was palpable. The bilateral between the two leaders of the world's largest democracies had not only gone well but surpassed expectations.

For one, the 35-minute meeting - the longest Bush is believed to have spent with any world leader -- was held in an "exceptionally warm" atmosphere, diplomatese for an encounter that went very well.

More importantly, Bush came out strongly in support of some of India's pet concerns, according to Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal, effectively blunting the bluster Musharraf had put on earlier in the day.

Bush unambiguously condemned terrorism and made it clear that the U.S. would not accept any justification for such violence. He even rejected any distinction between terrorism and freedom struggle, the veritable theme of Musharraf's address to the U.N. just a few hours earlier.

Musharraf had accused India of misusing the rationale of the war against terrorism by seeking to de-legitimise the Kashmir freedom struggle. But Sibal, who briefed the media about the meeting, quoted Bush as saying that if people were fighting for freedom, such a struggle should be based on the principles and tenets of freedom - it should not involve the taking of innocent lives.

Responding to yet another of India's concerns, which Vajpayee spelt out at the meeting, Bush also assured the prime minister that the U.S. would use its leverage with Islamabad and push for a peaceful election in Jammu and Kashmir.

In recent days, violence in Jammu and Kashmir has been stepped up, peaking with the assassination of a minister in the National Conference government in the state, a killing that Bush unequivocally condemned.

The U.S. president also seemed to have surprised the Indian delegation by assuring Vajpayee of his "personal commitment" to qualitatively transforming India-U.S. ties into a "broad-based strategic relationship" in the future.

The general contours of this relationship was discussed in the context of the bilateral agenda set by the two leaders at their meeting in Washington, D.C., last November, Sibal said, and would involve a focus on removing the "bureaucratic and administrative hurdles" in the way of the high-tech trade between the two countries.

Areas such as space, diverse forms of energy, high technology, commerce, science and even nuclear technology that have suffered because of the U.S. restrictions on transfer of technology could now get a filip. Clearly, a major gain.

The foreign secretary said President Bush spoke about the commonalities of shared democratic values, the entrepreneurial spirit and the intellectual energy from which both New Delhi and Washington had benefited.

Bush, who expressed a keen desire to visit India, then made a case for his administration's Iraq policy, emphasizing the need for the U.N. to assume its role and responsibility on the issue. Sibal said the U.S. president's remarks were more in the nature of bringing home the seriousness of the Iraq situation and the need to deal with it - it was not to be construed as a declaration of military action against Baghdad.

The Indian team accompanying Vajpayee to the meeting at the Permanent U.S. Mission at the U.N. included External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, Sibal, Joint Secreatry (U.S. and Canada) Jayant Prasad and Joint in Prime Minister's Office P.S. Raghavan.

Bush was aided by Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Christina Rocca, Jim Moriarty of the National Security Council and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

That the two sides were keen to take things forward as soon as possible was evident from the almost back-to- back meetings Mishra had with Rice and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage at which several of the themes briefly touched upon by Bush and Vajpayee were taken up in detail.

Mishra and Rice had detailed discussions on the current India-Pakistan situation with special reference to Musharraf's U.N. speech, described as a clear statement of the negative positions taken by the Pakistani ruler. A detailed note on the latest incidents of violence in Jammu and Kashmir was provided by the Indian side, including on Pakistan's bid to disrupt the assembly elections and its continued support to cross-border terrorism.

Sticking firmly to the Indian position, Mishra told his interlocuter that there was no question of resuming a dialogue with Pakistan as long as there was no change in the ground situation with regard to cross-border terrorism. The Indians also underlined the fact that Musharraf had not lived up to his commitment to the international community to contain terrorist and extremist elements within his country.

The Indians have come away from the meeting with a feeling that the U.S. will, indeed, keep up pressure on Pakistan to end cross-border terror and infiltration across the Line of Control. Officials believe that the pressure is working, though the results could have been better.

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