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July 24, 1999
ASEAN backs Indian stand on LoC's sanctity
Ramesh Arora in Singapore
India today received another shot in the arm when the foreign ministers of the ten-member Association of South-East Asian Nations supported the principle of inviolability of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and called for a bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve their dispute.
A joint communique issued at the end of the two-day ASEAN ministerial meeting said: "We welcome the agreement reached by India and Pakistan to end hostilities along the Line of Control and urge both sides to resolve the dispute through dialogue."
External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who arrived in Singapore this morning to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting, which gets underway tomorrow evening, said the statement had upheld the sanctity of the LoC, endorsing the Indian stand.
He said this year's meeting of the foreign ministers also did not refer to India by name on the issue of non-proliferation as they did last year in Manila after the Pokhran tests.
Asked to comment on Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz's reported statement that trust is lacking in the 52-year history of India-Pakistan relations, Singh said he was disappointed by the remark and asked angrily: "What did we sign in Simla in 1972? If this was not a document based on trust, what was it?"
Asked whether Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Lahore bus journey was a mistake, the external affairs minister retorted, "Let us not reduce India-Pakistan relations to the level of a school debating society. Lahore was a process towards correcting the mistakes of previous years."
He said the whole world now recognises Pakistan's misadventure in Kargil. "The world stood up because of the Lahore initiative by India," he added.
Singh said: "India is a power that acts with restraint and responsibly. This worked immensely to our advantage."
Asked about the resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, he said: "We are the initiators of the dialogue. We do not stand in the way of a dialogue."
About his meeting with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tomorrow, he said a variety of subjects will come up for discussion, and added that India welcomes the US approach on terrorism.
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