Saturday, May 10, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

India differs with Armitage
Figures show that infiltration has gone up
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 9
The Vajpayee government is understood to be cool to the official visit of US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and does not expect any major breakthrough.

India has sharp differences with the USA over the latter’s contention that infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan to India has gone down in the past few months and is going to present figures and "evidence" in this regard to Mr Armitage, well placed sources in the government said.

Mr Armitage arrived here from Kabul tonight along with Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca for a less than 24-hour-long visit. He came after visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr Armitage and Ms Rocca had no official engagements tonight.

While India does not expect the moon from Mr Armitage’s visit as far as Pakistan’s continued export of terrorism is concerned, it would do nothing to dilute the bilateral ties with the USA, sources said.

As a demonstration of this, India’s top leadership, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, apart from Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sonia Gandhi are meeting him tomorrow. Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal is having delegation-level talks with Mr Armitage and is hosting lunch for Mr Armitage and his delegation.

The mood in South Block here is that India does not want to remain a "prisoner of the past". The phrase is an obvious allusion to Mr Armitage’s much-hyped visit to the subcontinent exactly a year ago during which he had conveyed to Mr Vajpayee Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s promise to permanently end infiltration and cross-border terrorism. But nothing of the sort has happened.

Sources said the Vajpayee government was going to take the opportunity in its talks with Mr Armitage at different levels tomorrow for further improving bilateral ties and reviewing the post-Iraq international scenario, apart from discussing the obvious: Indo-Pak situation.

The Vajpayee government strongly differs with the USA on the issue of infiltration. Mr Armitage had gone on record saying in Islamabad yesterday that infiltration figures had of late come down.

Sources said the government is going to give figures to Mr Armitage proving that infiltration continues unabated from across the Line of Control (LoC).

The Ministry of Home Affairs is understood to have given a latest status report to the Ministry of External Affairs as part of the preparations of the government for Mr Armitage’s visit.

According to this classified report, as many as 300 infiltrations took place in the first quarter of this year as against 350 and 495 in the corresponding period in years 2002 and 2001, respectively. Besides, 60 terrorists were killed on the LoC this year while trying to infiltrate into J&K and as many as 1200-1500 terrorists are present at various training camps in Pakistan who are likely to infiltrate at an opportune time in the coming days and weeks.

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