Sunday, May 11, 2003
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By Amit Baruah
The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, at his residence in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: S. Arneja.
Mr. Armitage, who had daylong meetings with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and senior members of his Cabinet, including the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, said that it was not his job to give assurances.
Indicating that it was for India to assess Pakistani actions and intentions on the issue of cross-border terrorism, he, however, told presspersons that all violence must be brought to an end. In response to a question, Mr. Armitage made it clear that he had made no "specific request" for the deployment of Indian troops in Iraq "or anything of that nature" while saying that there would certainly be a role for India in the reconstruction of Iraq.
At a separate briefing, the Foreign Office spokesman clarified that it was India's policy to participate in peacekeeping operations only under the United Nations' umbrella. Asked what was "new" about the "message'' that Mr. Armitage had brought from Islamabad this time around, the spokesman claimed that this theory of "bringing, carrying" messages was "quite misplaced".
The spokesman said India had heard claims and declarations before, but these had not been translated into action. And, New Delhi would judge Islamabad by what it does, not what it says. Pointing out that India had received assurances before on the issue of cross-border terrorism, he said: "every season was a new season". India had taken a new initiative with Pakistan hoping to see an "appropriate" response on this all-important issue.
Asked whether India had presented "evidence" to Mr. Armitage about terrorist training camps, he said New Delhi's "latest assessment" on training camps, launching pads and communication networks was shared with Mr. Armitage.
On whether India had pointed out that action by Pakistan on U.S. concerns had led to the arrest of high-profile leaders of the Al-Qaeda while the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Muhammad leaders roamed freely, he said: "This is a self-evident duality".
Would Mr. Armitage's visit create a more conducive environment for India-Pakistan talks? "There is no place for mediation, no intention of mediation," the spokesman said. For his part, Mr. Armitage said on re-engagement between India and Pakistan: "I remain cautiously optimistic that the process begun by the act of statesmanship (shown) by the Prime Minister of India could possibly lead to a step-by-step process that would eventually resolve all issues."
"We would like to see two great nations India and Pakistan living side by side, in peace, stability and harmony," he said adding that the U.S. wanted to develop relations "separately" with India and Pakistan without having to take into account "other interests".
On the levels of cross-border infiltration, he said it was a "terrible thing" to reduce the death of a person to a statistic. "I concentrate on the fact that all violence must end," he stressed.
According to the Foreign Office spokesman, bilateral Indo-U.S. issues, Iraq, the West Asian peace process, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, North Korea and China came up for discussion with Mr. Armitage.
An invitation for Mr. Advani to visit the U.S. (in June) on behalf of the U.S. Vice-President, Dick Cheney, was also communicated by Mr. Armitage.
The U.S. official has said pretty much the same things in his public remarks in both New Delhi and Islamabad. At least in the public domain,
India has got nothing "extra'' from Mr. Armitage's South Asia visit as far as pressing Pakistan is concerned.
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