Saturday, August 11, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Foreign Secys’ meet cordial
India, Pak decide to continue dialogue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 10
India today told Pakistan in clear terms that it could choose the kind of relationship it would like to have with its neighbour.

“On our part, we remain both committed and willing to adopt a positive approach in relations with Pakistan” Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer told her Pakistan counterpart Inam Ul Haq in the Sri Lankan Capital during her 75-minute “professional and focussed meeting”.

The meeting between the two was held in a cordial atmosphere during which the two sides decided to continue the dialogue, a spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said here while briefing newspersons about the meeting held today at the sidelines of the SAARC Standing Committee meeting.

To have any meaningful progress in bilateral relationship, the issue of cross-border terrorism needs to be satisfactorily addressed, Mrs Iyer told her counterpart.

India said cross-border terrorism was of “utmost and uppermost concern” for India and “we cannot accept that the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, with its foreign mercenaries and generous assistance from abroad, is anything but cross-border terrorism. The daily killing of innocent men, women and children can simply not be glorified as jehad, or as any kind of political movement”.

“Soon after the Agra summit had concluded, pilgrims on their way to the holy shrine of Amarnath were killed. Thereafter, further massacres of members of one community occurred at the hand of terrorists”, the Foreign Secretary pointed out.

“We reject any suggestion that J&K is the ‘core’ issue, or ‘central’ to the normalisation of India-Pakistan relations. As the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister have indicated on various occasions, we must make efforts to improve relations, build trust and confidence so that a climate is created conducive to resolution of the issue”, Mrs Iyer said.

Conveying to the Pakistan Foreign Secretary that India was proceeding with the implementation of the CBMs announced on July 4, 6 and 9, Mrs Iyer said that Islamabad’s response was awaited.

Mrs Iyer reiterated the importance that India attaches to improving relations with Pakistan, which would also be to the benefit of the peoples of the two countries.


Musharraf not invited at US behest

New Delhi, August 10
External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh today dismissed the Opposition charge that the government had invited Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf under the US or any third party pressure and rejected Islamabad’s attempts to confer cross-border terrorism a kind of legitimacy or status as a pre-dialogue negotiating tool.

Mr Jaswant Singh made it clear in the Rajya Sabha that the Simla and Lahore agreements could not be replaced by “some understandings’’ reached at the Agra summit.

“There will be no compromise with cross-border terrorism. There is no question of conferring cross-border terrorism a kind of legitimacy or status as a pre-dialogue negotiating tool or tactics’’, he said while intervening in a debate on the summit.

Once New Delhi agreed to this with Pakistan “turning the tap on and off’’ at its sweet will, India would be compromising its national interests, he said in a clear rejection of Islamabad terming the terrorist actions in Jammu and Kashmir as “freedom struggle’’.

On the Congress charge that Washington knew about the dates of the summit even before India had made a formal announcement, he said the government or Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee did not have to prove their credentials and were not known to “not cave into any kind of foreign pressure be it from the USA or any other country’’.

He asserted that any challenge to India militarily would be defeated. “We do not covet an inch of Pakistani territory,” he said.

Dismissing Pakistan’s claim that Jammu and Kashmir was a “territorial dispute”, he said: “It is a dispute over fundamentals.”

He said Mr Vajpayee clearly pointed to President Musharraf that the northern area, including Gilgit, Munza and Baltistan, were under illegal occupation of Pakistan and that Islamabad had even given a portion of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to China.

Reiterating India’s desire for containing the peace process with Pakistan, he said it was for Islamabad to “come to terms with what sort of long-term relations it wants” with this country.

“The government is clear that Pakistan continues to purse and practice a policy of compulsive and perpetual hostility against India,” he said.

India, he said, would work for improving relations with Pakistan in the “broadest possible front” in diverse spheres.

“The caravan of peace will continue,” he stressed despite interruptions such as Kargil, Kandahar and the recent incidents of violence and killings.

Asserting secularism was embedded in Indian nationalism, the minister said New Delhi rejected the two-nation theory on the basis of which Pakistan was created.

Stating that 85 to 90 per cent of people in the Kashmir valley were Muslims, he said there were several areas across the country which had Muslim majority.

“What am I to do? I cannot put them in a railway rake and sent them to Pakistan. I cannot do that,” he said while pointing out New Delhi made no distinction on the basis of religion, caste or creed.

Maintaining that India was keen to enhance people-to-people contacts, he regretted that Islamabad did not respond favourably to the confidence-building measures including easing of visa restrictions and the proposal to open the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, announced unilaterally in the run-up to the summit.

Islamabad had also not responded positively to the Indian Director-General of Military Operations undertaking a visit to Pakistan to discuss the situation on the Line of Control, he said. PTI

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