Wednesday, May 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Brajesh meets Armitage on way to USA
ISI chief already camping in Washington
Tribune News Service and Agencies

London, May 6
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage kicked off his South Asia tour with a one-to-one meeting with National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra here today, during which they discussed the fresh Indo-Pak peace moves.

Mr Armitage flew in here from Washington to hold talks with Mr Mishra.

No aides were present at the meeting between Mr Mishra and Mr Armitage during which Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s latest peace initiatives and the Pakistani response figured.

As Mr Armitage embarked on his visit to Pakistan and India, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said “this is a moment of opportunity where both sides seem to be reaching out.”

Mr Powell told reporters in Washington that Mr Armitage would “encourage this process of reaching out and the US will be ready to assist both sides as they move forward.”

Mr Armitage, who is accompanied by US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca, will be reaching New Delhi on Friday after visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan.

NEW DELHI: Two days before the US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visits the Indian subcontinent, the USA is currently playing host to two high-profile visitors from India and Pakistan with whom crucial policy matters are likely to come under microscope.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Principal Secretary and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra today reached the USA for talks with top officials of the Bush administration at a time when Pakistan’s Lieut-Gen Ehsan ul Haq, chief of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), is already camping there.

However, according to sources here the agendas of the two visits were starkly different. While Mr Mishra’s US visit was primarily aimed at giving a further fillip to Indo-US strategic ties, General Haq had been virtually summoned there for explaining a lot of things.

It was understood that though the focus of Mr Mishra’s US visit was to further strengthen Indo-US ties, a roadmap to the India-Pakistan detente would also be under sharp focus.

On bilateral front, during Mr Mishra’s talks with his American counterpart Condoleeza Rice and other American officials, the specific issues that were going to come civil, nuclear cooperation and space.

Mr Mishra had gone to the USA with full support from Mr Vajpayee and his government for impressing upon the Bush administration India’s resolve to be a key strategic partner of the USA and jointly fight the scourge of international terrorism.

While Mr Mishra’s US visit had a broader policy orientation, the purpose of the ISI chief’s US visit was mainly operational.

Washington was peeved with the resumption of the ISI’s covert support to the Taliban loose canons as well as certain Afghan Mujahideen outfits, particularly the one headed by an old and influential warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The Bush administration was going to confront General Haq with evidence of Taliban and Al Qaida cadres and Mujahideen regrouping in a big way with the covert help from the ISI.

Pakistan-watchers here said that General Haq was also going to be given a piece of mind on the ISI involvement in keeping the Kashmir cauldron on the boil with the continued infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir from across the Line of Control (LoC).

Besides, General Haq was going to be told to remove certain “rogue” elements within the ISI as identified by the Bush administration. Invariably, each time any chief of the ISI visits the USA significant purges were ordered soon within the ISI.

It was understood that the Americans’ separate bilateral interactions with Mr Mishra and General Haq were inevitably going to touch upon ways to improve relations between the two estranged nuclear neighbours.

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