|HOME | NEWS | THE VAJPAYEE VISIT | REPORT|
September 15, 2000
'Kashmir is not what we have come to discuss'
Amberish K Diwanji in Washington DC
The Indian delegation was thrown into a tizzy when a Washington reporter said that United States President Bill Clinton had described Kashmir as being the issue that lay at the "core of difficulties" between India and Pakistan.
At a press conference convened by Brajesh Mishra, the prime minister's principal secretary and India's national security adviser, on Thursday afternoon, a reporter told Mishra that Clinton had described Kashmir as being the core issue and how would India react to that?
Mishra was sufficiently rattled to ask, "Really? Are you sure? Did President Clinton say that?"
The principal secretary asked for a transcript of the president's statement, which was duly provided. He studied the document, and finally replied, deadpan: "Kashmir is not what we have come to discuss."
He insisted Kashmir would not be at the heart of the discussion when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee meets Clinton at the White House on Friday.
Clinton had made the remarks at a press briefing at the White House after he had signed a bill, and an Indian community correspondent present asked the president what would come of the visit by Vajpayee to the White House and the call to fight terrorism.
Mishra acknowledged that Kashmir was bound to be a part of the conversation between Clinton and Vajpayee. Yet, he contended that the reference would only be in context to Indo-Pak relations and the issue of peace in South Asia.
Congressmen on Capitol Hill, speaking to a select group of the Indian media, too raised the issue, pointing out that Kashmir was an issue that needed to be resolved as soon as possible.
Mishra was briefing the press about the meetings that Vajpayee had with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee, after his address to the joint session of Congress.
He said Vajpayee and the committees did not discuss Pakistan, but instead focussed on international terrorism and the need to contain it.
The other vexed issue between India and the US is the signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Mishra said India would not raise the issue, adding it was a non-issue during Vajpayee's meeting with the congressmen and senators. "Only one senator present raised the CTBT issue," he said.
Asked if it was Senator Jesse Helms (Republican-North Carolina), who has a reputation for being tough on India, the principal secretary replied in the negative.
Mishra said the meeting with the two committees, which included Helms, went off very well and there were no troublesome questions that left pending.
When it was pointed out to Mishra that some Indian Christian groups had staged demonstrations outside Capitol Hill, he dismissed it as a non-event. "Let me tell you that when the Catholic church and the Protestant church in India were approached to attend some Congressional hearings, both of them refused to do so, saying whatever troubles they were having, were an internal matter of India," he said.
"Even Gladys Staines refused to come to the US to depose before the Congressional hearing. This only shows that main Christian groups are not involved in any of these demonstrations," he declared.
Mishra rejected any reference to China in the prime minister's speech to Congress. He said the prime minister spoke about a peaceful Asia and that his speech was not directed against any country in particular.
Later, highly-placed government officials told a select group of the Indian media that India had no intention of entering into any alliance with the US that was aimed at China. India's only interest at this stage was in counter the terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
"The idea of an US-India alliance aimed against China is nothing more than Cold War thinking that seeks to divide the world into two alliances. China is our neighbour and it is in India's interest to have good relations with it," one official said.
Meanwhile, the Indian American Christian Coalition of North America, the Aligarh Muslim Association, and the Association of American Indian Muslims held a joint demonstration opposite Capitol Hill when Vajpayee was present inside.
The Christian group was demonstrating against the attacks on Christians in India while the Muslim groups were protesting against Muslims in India being branded as ISI and Pakistani agents.
rediff.com has assigned Associate Editors Amberish K Diwanji and Savera R Someshwar to cover Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the United States. Don't forget to log into rediff.com for news of this historic visit as it happens!
ASTROLOGY | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEDDING | ROMANCE | WEATHER | WOMEN | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE MESSENGER | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK