Saturday, September 16, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Clinton for talks with Pakistan
Warm welcome to Vajpayee

From Hari Jaisingh

WASHINGTON, Sept 15 — The Indo-American dialogue came to a decisive stage as Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had a formal meeting with President Bill Clinton at the White House here today.

Warmly receiving Mr Vajpayee at an impressive ceremony, President Clinton welcomed India’s commitment to forego nuclear testing.

The Prime Minister while responding to Mr Clinton’s observations said his visit to the USA was in line with new hope and opportunities in the Indo-US ties. He said his dialogue would embrace economic cooperation, science and technology and regional and global issues.

The customary joint press conference by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and US President Bill Clinton at the White House after their talks today was cancelled with conflicting reasons given by the two sides.

While it is customary for such a joint press conference to be held after the talks at the White House with visiting leaders, such an interaction with the media did not figure in the original schedule of Mr Vajpayee.

A joint statement is in the process of being finalised. High officials on both sides have been working hard to make it a smooth affair.

The joint statement is expected to be released tomorrow.

While the leaders on both sides have been upbeat on close economic relations between the two countries, their perspectives differ on the questions of nuclear proliferation including the signing of the CTBT and the FMCT and the resumption of dialogue with Pakistan.

The USA is, of course, categorical that India should sort out its problems with Pakistan bilaterally. New Delhi has, however, reiterated its well known position for a resumption of talks with its neighbour.

First, New Delhi is firmly of the view that Islamabad should stop its dubious game of supporting cross-border terrorism.

Second, India wants Pakistan to give up Jehad as an instrument of state policy.

Though there is a much wider appreciation of the Indian position here on terrorism, the USA is definitely exploring various options to defuse the crisis in the subcontinent.

This was made clear by President Clinton in response to a question posed by a Washington-based Indian newsman covering the White House.

While strongly opposing “terrorism in any form,” Mr Clinton hoped that because of the groundwork “we have laid the USA can play a positive role to a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute which has been at the core of the difficulties between India and Pakistan for more than half a century now.”

Echoing his sentiments in a larger perspective, the US President said: “If you look at how well, I will say this again, if you look at how well the Indians, the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who have come to America have done, the extraordinary percentage of them that are involved in hi-tech economy. These professionals are building our country across a broad range of areas. It is tragic to think that what this conflict has done to hold back the people who live on the Indian subcontinent, who are still living on around $ 500 or less a year on an average and who have proven by their stunning success in this country that they have the ability to be at the cutting edge of the 21st Century.”

Mr Clinton added: “So I hope they can lay this burden down and we can help them. In the meantime of course we will have to oppose terrorism in all its manifestations.”

In his joint address to the US Congress yesterday, Mr Vajpayee had made a specific reference to the problem of terrorism and indirectly blamed Pakistan for unleashing such forces “to unravel the territorial integrity of India.”

“They (Pakistani rulers) wish to show that a multi-religious society cannot exist,” he said and added “they pursue a task in which they are doomed to fail.”

Mr Vajpayee also pointed out that no country “has faced as ferocious an attack of terrorist violence as India has over the past two decades: 21000 were killed by foreign mercenaries in Punjab alone, 16000 have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir.”

It speaks volumes of the American concern for strengthening Indo-US relations to fight terrorism that the House of Representatives earlier adopted the resolution (H Res. 572) seeking to expand bilateral security, economic and political ties for “the mutual benefit of both countries.”

The same concern was reflected at the luncheon meeting of Mr Vajpayee with the India caucus and later with the “Think Tanks”.

Mr Vajpayee acknowledged this when he remarked “we have noted with gratitude your support for India during last summer’s intrusion by Pakistani army regulars in India’s Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir.”

The Prime Minister dubbed the India caucus as “an outstanding example of participatory democracy” and added that it “serves as a bridge between the 1.5 million strong Indian American community and their elected representatives.”

“The caucus took shape seven years ago with four members. I understand that today it has more than 120 members. This reflects both the growing confidence of the Indian American community and the increasingly close relationship between India and the USA on wide ranging issues,” Mr Vajpayee declared.

Responding to the Prime Minister, Congressman Gary Ackerman and co-chairman of the Congressional caucus on India and American Indians readily conceded that “a strong pro-India sentiment is sweeping Washington, especially on Capitol Hill.”

They attributed this change to the caucus’s “hard work, the Indian American community’s tireless advocacy and the vital support received from the US and Indian business community.”

India signed five commercial agreements totalling $ 6 billion in key sectors like power, e-commerce and banking here last night. The agreements including a $ 900 million loan by the US Exim Bank for the purchase of American goods and services were initialled in the presence of Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and U S Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

Three agreements pertained to setting up as many power projects. America’s Southern Energy will collaborate with Reliance and Power Trading Corporation of India in setting up the massive 3800 MW Hirma independent power project in Orissa. On completion, this power project will meet the shortfall in the five northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.


Pak persuasion ‘successful’

ISLAMABAD, Sept 15 (UNI) — Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf today said Pakistan was successful in persuading world leaders to consider the ways and means to solve the Kashmir problem.

Addressing a press conference in Karachi on his return from New York after attending the United Nations millennium summit, Gen Musharraf said un Secretary-General Kofi Annan had expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir and promised to visit the region.

Gen Musharraf’s homecoming was delayed yesterday as the PIA flight pK-722 carrying him and 122 other passengers had to return to John F Kennedy International Airport shortly after take-off due to a bomb scare.

He said US President Bill Clinton also expressed apprehensions about the Kashmir issue and said he was trying his best to help resolve the issue. “Our purpose is to bring solution through dialogue.’’

About the Indian reaction on the Hizbul Mujahideen’s offer for talks, the General said it was totally negative, “New Delhi has lost a window of opportunity. It should have shown statesmanship’’.

Replying to another question, Gen Musharraf said all leaders whom he met were aware of the security concern in the region due to the Kashmir problem and wanted it to be defused.

He said the Pakistan-US relations should be seen independently and should not be considered on the lines of the US-India relations. “I see our relations in an independent context and certainly I am not comparing them with their ties with India. We would maintain ties with the US Independent of India’s relations’’.

The General described the recent statement made by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed as “uncalled for’’.

“We consider them as our brothers. We need to forget the past and look forward. However, we would not like anybody to interfere in our domestic affairs,’’ he said.

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