Saturday, January 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

News analysis
Advani makes most of US media’s interest
A. Balu

Home Minister L. K. Advani
WASHINGTON: Home Minister L. K. Advani leaves the White House on Thursday after meeting with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush. — AP/PTI photo

Rarely an Indian leader's visit to the USA has been able to evoke any significant interest in the American media. Even the official visits of prime ministers have failed to enthuse newspapers or television channels. Now, thanks to the escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan, the Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, is a much sought after man in Washington with television channels and leading newspapers vying with each other for an interaction with the visiting dignitary.

He has been interviewed by CNN, Fox News television and PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and has had breakfast meetings with Editors of Washington Times and Washington Post.

It must be said to the credit of Mr. Advani that he has used the opportunity of this media interest to effectively drive home to the USA and the rest of the world that for the last two decades a war has been inflicted on India — a war in which “the enemy is unknown and in which the enemy gets support and sustenance from Pakistan, comes across to our part of the world and there indulges in sabotage, in terrorism, in killing innocent people.”

Mr Advani appears to have succeeded in impressing on the USA that Pakistan has to do much more than it has done to contain cross border terrorism. And, he is returning home with the conviction that his talks with President Bush and other U.S. leaders have given him “a measure of assurance” that the American Government does wish to stand by its promise given in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks that it is concerned with eliminating terrorism wherever it is in the world.

Mr Advani told CNN that “when immediately after the September 11, America consciously wooed Pakistan, I told the American Ambassador in New Delhi that this is the right approach. Geography dictates it. Pure strategy dictates it. And the need to ensure that the battle against terrorism does not become a battle between two religions, that also makes it imperative that an Islamic country like Pakistan should be on the side of those who are waging a battle against international terrorism. And, therefore, I see no objection to what was done in the case of Pakistan earlier, though I do believe that, if terrorism is a crime in respect of Taliban, terrorism is a crime in respect of India also.”

In his interview with FOX News, Mr. Advani made it clear that terrorism as an instrument of State policy in Jammu and Kashmir “is unacceptable.”

Mr Advani said the two countries which had adopted terrorism as an instrument of state policy are either the Taliban or Pakistan, and at one time, both were acting in tandem against India. “Today, it is one.”

In the Newsmaker programme on PBS Television, the Home Minister said that with the armies being on both sides of the line of control, or on the international border, “It is impossible even for a stray dog to come across the line unless it is facilitated by the government on the other side.”

On the Kashmir issue, Mr Advani said India was keen that the two countries adhered to the Shimla agreement, discuss and debate the issues, see how they could narrow the differences. “But in the meanwhile, we urge General Musharraf to pledge that these shall not be held hostage to the resolutions of these differences. A resolution of this dispute has to be by dialogue. It cannot be by war, it has to be by peaceful dialogue and negotiation.”

Mr Advani added: "The minimum requirement is that we both must pledge that we will have no war, overt or covert, direct or proxy, on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. We will discuss Jammu and Kashmir."

In a statement at a press conference at the Indian Embassy, Mr.Advani declared: "I would like our friends in the USA and elsewhere in the world to ponder: "What type of freedom fighter are those who set off serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, hijack a civilian airliner and take it, unsurprisingly, to Taliban-controlled Kandahar, routinely conduct mass killings of innocent civilians, carry out a terrorist attack on Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly and strike at India’s Parliament, the heart of the world’s largest democracy?” Back

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