Friday, August 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

War option open, India to tell Armitage
Rajeev Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 22
India is going to tell US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage when he arrives here for a day’s visit tomorrow that New Delhi can still go to war against Pakistan or take punitive action against the hostile neighbour “if need be”.

Well-placed sources in the South Block said the Vajpayee government was treating Mr Armitage’s visit as a “routine” diplomatic event and nothing dramatic was expected out of it.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee would not be meeting Mr Armitage even though two other important ministers in his government — Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha— are currently abroad.

When Mr Armitage meets Defence Minister George Fernandes, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra and Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal tomorrow, he is in for a hard talk on the Indo-Pakistan situation, sources said.

Besides, India is sore with Washington on two counts: one, the “uncalled for” remarks by Secretary of State Colin Powell during his last visit here and secondly, the fact that Pakistan has reneged on its promises conveyed to the top Indian leadership through Mr Armitage and the USA is not doing enough to pressure Pakistan to keep its promises. India had announced three specific de-escalation measures last June soon after the earlier visit by Mr Armitage on the basis of Pakistani assurances as reported by Mr Armitage to the top Indian leadership.

Sources said General Musharraf’s recent statement in which he had admitted the possibility of infiltration in small groups across the Line of Control was likely to dominate talks with Mr Armitage.

Though Pakistan has rejected Indian suggestions for a joint Indo-Pakistan patrolling of the LoC, Mr Armitage is going to be told that no other security force in the world would be able to deliver the goods as none else understood the terrain as much.

The sources disclosed that India was going to make it clear to the USA that if diplomacy and international pressures failed to persuade Pakistan to stop its cross-border terrorism and cross-border infiltration activities, New Delhi reserved the right to pursue other options.

At the same time, India was highly appreciative of the crucial role of a good “facilitator” being played by the USA and clearly discerned the marked tilt in the American approach towards India.

India realises that diplomacy is “a waiting game” and it is playing this game to the hilt.


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