Wednesday, March 22, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Clinton’s mantra for peace
Respect LoC: Clinton
From T.V.Lakshminarayan
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, March 21 — The US President, Mr Bill Clinton, today made it clear that he would not mediate between India and Pakistan unless asked to do, but advocated four basic principles that could restore immediate peace between the two neighbours.

There should be a show of restraint by everyone in the subcontinent; respect for the Line of Control, some way should be found to renew dialogue between the two countries and military solution was no answer to resolving the conflict. This is the mantra of Mr Clinton to restore peace between the two countries.

There was jubiliation in the Indian camp over Mr Clinton’s remarks with the Indian side seeing this as a virtual endorsement of India’s stand that there can be no talks with Pakistan unless it stopped cross border terrorism and violence in Kashmir.

There was a cause for further joy, when the President declared that he would be conveying this message to the Pakistan leadership during his brief stopover at Islamabad on March 25.

India’s tension with Pakistan and nuclear disarmament were the two major issues which dominated Mr Clinton’s talks with the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, at Hyderabad House here today.

The two leaders met in the presence of officials for about 50 minutes and then had a one-to-one for another 10 minutes. There was another meeting of about 45 minutes in which the full delegation from both sides participated.

In a brief interaction with mediapersons after the two leaders read out a prepared speech, Mr Clinton referred to Mr Vajpayee’s Lahore initiative last year. He said the Prime Minister took some “risk” in this. “But you cannot expect a dialogue to go on unless there is absence of violence and there is respect for the Line of Control,” he said, adding a military solution was difficult.

On Mr Vajpayee’s appeal to him to take up with Islamabad these matters, Mr Clinton said he would be saying these things in Islamabad too. He said the very fact that he had spoken about this publicly in India, there was no way he could say something different to the Pakistan leadership.

Describing his talks with Mr Vajpayee as frank and candid, Mr Clinton said there was a possibility of the two countries reaching a common ground on banning fissile material and nuclear export controls.

On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, (CTBT), Mr Clinton said it was a contentious issue and expressed the hope that the democratic process in India would help in its ratification just as it would in the USA.

He, however, drew consolation from Mr Vajpayee’s statement that India would not conduct further nuclear explosive tests, not engage in a nuclear arms race and would not be the first to use nuclear weapons against any country.

He referred to Mr Vajpayee’s assurance to continue the dialogue and to work together in cooperation with other countries to help bring about a peaceful and secure world completely free of the threat of all weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Clinton said he also discussed the issue of terrorism at length with Mr Vajpayee and he had conveyed his outrage on the massacre of Sikhs in Kashmir.

Mr Clinton said Washington recognised India’s security concern in the nuclear context but added that at a time when most nations, including the USA and Russia, were moving away from nuclear weapons, the “world needs India to lead in the same direction”.

The President said while he was here he would be discussing the issue with Indian leaders and “listen as I have today of concerns of India’s leaders and its people”.

He said discussions on the nuclear issue would continue even after he left.

In his opening remarks after signing and exchanging ‘Vision 2000’ joint statement with Mr Vajpayee, he described it as laying the foundation for a “dynamic and lasting partnership” between two growing economic powers.

“Both our nations enjoy strong economic growth and are pioneering in information revolution. Today, we have reached agreements to bring more jobs and opportunities to our people, to accelerate trade between us, to help India’s financial markets and assist its small businesses,” he said.

He said both countries had agreed to institute a regular economic dialogue.

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