US linking sanctions to Indo-Pak talks: MEA official
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The US doublespeak on the lifting of the sanctions on India, imposed in the wake of the Pokharan II explosions, has convinced the Vajpayee government that Washington is utilising it as a leverage on Kashmir, a top official of the ministry of external affairs indicated on Thursday.
"They (the US) have made no secret that they want the Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir to progress. They have repeatedly used Kashmir-is-a-nuclear-flashpoint theory to egg us on. But we cannot sacrifice our national interests and we cannot lose sight of them "(chiefly that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India)," he said.
He contended that there were tangible indications that the US was not going to lift the sanctions on India shortly as US officials had been claiming recently.
"We are aware about (the US reluctance) it and not unduly perturbed," he pointed out.
The official indicated that just before the recent Indian visit of the US deputy secretary of stage Richard Armitage, Washington had indicated that the sanctions would be lifted.
He pointed out that the US indication about the sanctions being lifted soon was 'conditional to verifiable forward movement by the two sub-continental neighbours on Kashmir'.
"This is the government's reading of the situation. But it is not as if we are greatly worried about the non-lifting of the sanctions," he pointed out.
Asked to clarify in which areas the US sanctions was hitting the most, the official said: "It could be in the area of India's national security interests concerning defence development." He declined to elaborate.
External affairs ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said she did not want to speculate when the US sanctions will be ended.
"When they are ended, it will be known," she pointed out.
An official of the Prime Minister's Office contended that despite speculation in the media about the failure of the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks in Agra, the government would continue its efforts for the restoration of peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
"The prime minister in his statement informed the Lok Sabha said that the peace efforts (in Jammu and Kashmir) would be vigorously pursued. Of course, that does not mean it will lower its guard against the militants. You can say that its approach on the Kashmir issue will be a balanced blend of alertness and initiatives," he pointed out.
He dismissed Opposition criticism that the government had to take the blame for its handling of the media which had resulted in Pakistan walking away with all the honours in media-management.
"They (the Opposition) themselves claim that the Kashmir issue cannot be solved overnight. The government stand (during the Agra summit) has been based on national interests. So it is not surprising that the Opposition parties are criticising its stand," he said.
Senior Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia pointed out that since the government was best positioned to comment on the sanctions, his party would refrain from saying anything on the issue for the moment."
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