Thursday, January 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Advani holds talks with Ashcroft

Washington, January 9
Home Minister L.K. Advani today began his engagement with top US officials today articulating India’s stand on terrorism and the tense stand-off with Pakistan sparked by the attack on Indian Parliament House by Pakistan-based terror groups.

Mr Advani held wide-ranging talks with Attorney-General John Ashcroft marking the start of India’s diplomatic offensive to turn more heat on Pakistan to effectively crack down on terrorist outfits operating from that country targetting india.

Mr Ashcroft later hosted a lunch for Mr Advani who is scheduled to meet Secretary of State Colin Powell later in the day.

Shortly before meeting Mr Ashcroft, Mr Advani said terrorism posed the biggest challenge to democracies both in the USA and India and the menace has to be stamped out from the face of the world.

Mr Advani will meet National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at the White House with the possibility that President George W. Bush may drop in, what would be symbolic of the growing warmth in India-US relations.

The Home Minister arrived here yesterday for a hectic six days of heavy engagements in Washington and New York, his high stature in India being recognised by policymakers here as is evident in the programme they have arranged for him.

Ahead of Mr Advani’s US trip, the Bush administration made it clear that the key to defuse current Indo-Pak stand-off lay with Pakistan’s action against militants operating from its territory.

The USA also firmly ruled out any intervention to settle the Kashmir problem unless asked by both India and Pakistan.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Indo-Pak situation was still “dangerous” and “we all need to look for ways” to descalate it.

The USA expects Islamabad to continue to move against terrorist organisations because of the danger they pose to Pakistan and its neighbours.

Concrete US aid to India to fight cross-border terrorism and homeland defence are expected to be the highlights of Mr Advani’s visit.

Mr Advani is likely to raise with American leaders the issue of bringing to book the five Pakistan-based hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane against whom both Indian and American police have registered separate cases.

The FBI has also filed a case in the matter.

The move is said to be a part of the diplomatic pressure by New Delhi on Islamabad to extradite criminals taking shelter in Pakistan.

The FBI’s team has also been in constant touch with the CBI about developments in the hijacking case.

The CBI recently handed over a complete note about the hijackers - Ibrahim Athar, Sunny Ahmed Qazi, Zahoor Ibrahim, Shahid Akhter Sayed and Shakir - and two accomplices Yusuf Dazhar and Abdul Rauf to the Home Ministry. PTI

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