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October 23, 1999
India upset with soft US stand on Pak
Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi
The visit of Indian National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra to the United States comes at a time when there is a growing perception in the ministry of external affairs that Washington DC is softening its stand on the new regime in Pakistan. However, the US view that Pakistan must stop sponsoring "cross-border terrorism" has brought much cheer to the ministry of external affairs.
Brajesh Mishra, who is also the principal secretary to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajapyee, is in Washington on a two-day visit (October 22 and 23) and he is expected to meet US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and US National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.
Sources in the ministry of external affairs point out that the Indian government is rather upset with the US's changing position vis-a-vis General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup a few days ago.
The softening of the US stand on Musharraf became apparent when US official Bruce Riedley visited New Delhi recently to discuss the developments in Pakistan.
"During the various meetings with Riedley, our side kept on reiterating that a military regime in Pakistan does not bode well for India and South Asia. But the strange fact is that Riedley did not say a word against Musharraf during all the meetings. We were aghast," said highly-placed sources in the MEA.
It was the first hint to the Indians that despite the public posturing, Washington DC was preparing to deal with Musharraf. "The fact is that Pakistan is literally a client state of the US and they are not keen to lose their influence in Pakistan, regardless of who rules," the sources added.
However, India was unwilling to let the US get away so easily and immediately stepped up its diplomatic efforts. Mishra's visit is to keep the pressure on Washington DC to ensure that the military regime does not get adventurous with India.
"It is no secret that it was the Pakistani army that initiated and carried out the entire Kargil operation, most likely with the knowledge of (ousted prime minister) Nawaz Sharief. And there is no reason to suspect that once things settle down in Pakistan, they will not try something similar again," the sources said.
The fear in the MEA is that once the present military leadership gets a grip on the country, it might once again step up activities in Kashmir in a bid to satisfy the hardline elements within the army and country. Thus India kept up the pressure on the US and the West that to treat Musharraf with kid gloves would be a monumental mistake.
"However, we now realise that sooner or later, the US will deal with Musharraf," the sources said. "After all, the US feels that not to deal with Musharraf will push Pakistan into an abyss of turmoil which will be far more dangerous."
However, according to the sources, the Indian pressure on the US did finally pay when the US administration acknowledged that Pakistan must stop "cross-border terrorism" and pull back its forces from along the international border and the Line of Control before resumption of Indo-Pak talks.
Speaking at a hearing of the House of Representatives International Relations Subcommittee, US Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth had said, "The Indians have said that the Lahore process cannot be resumed until cross-border terrorism ceases and we believe that such steps need to be taken."
Inderfurth also ruled out any resumption of arms supply to Pakistan till democracy was restored, even if the Congress authorises the US president to waive the sanctions imposed on Pakistan.
The MEA feels that the tough US stance is the result of India's insistence that it must not let Pakistan off the hook. "We have been stressing, ever since Riedley's visit, that it will be impossible for us to deal with the very same army that undertook Kargil unless and until some positive steps are taken by the Pakistani side. It is heartening that they have agreed," the sources said.
With the US now agreeing to India's stand that there can be no resumption of talks until cross-border terrorism was stopped, the pressure is on Pakistan to take the initiative.
Yet, the very visible high in the MEA after the US Senate refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is no longer there. Then the feeling was that Indo-US ties would continue along the ascendant, but after Washington began playing footsie with Musharraf, there is more scepticism.
"I guess it is clear that for the US, Pakistan will remain important, regardless of what all happens in that country and we in India must realise this fact. No matter how good Indo-US relations become, the US will always want to keep itself involved with Islamabad," the sources added.
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