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September 16, 2000
No US pressure on Indo-Pak talks: Jaswant
Savera R Someshwar in Washington DC
External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh sought to underplay the US interest in Kashmir by reiterating there was no insistence on the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan in the one-to-one meeting between President William Jefferson Clinton and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Nor was the issue insisted upon in the bilateral meeting that later took place between the two delegations.
He admitted, though, that the US expressed its concern about the issue. In response, the prime minister had pointed out that India, which had originally initiated dialogue between the two nations, would never stand in the way of peace and amity. But the atmosphere had to be more conducive before India could consider the resumption of any kind of dialogue with Pakistan.
This, said Singh at a press conference, was reinforced by the joint statement issued by the two nations on Friday, wherein both India and the United States reaffirmed their belief that tensions in South Asia could be resolved peacefully by the nations of South Asia.
He added that, in his meeting with his counterpart, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, he had highlighted the fact that the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir was not territorial. It was a question of civic nationality and pluralism and not, as Pakistan believed, religion.
He said this was forcefully presented in both the prime minister's one-to-one meeting with the president, as well as in Vajpayee's meeting with US think-tanks. He believed that, though the transformation was not total, the US was beginning to see the issue from India's perspective.
Reality vis-a-vis the Indian position on Kashmir would be recognised, said Singh, even though it would take some time.
The situation in Afghanistan too came up for extensive discussion between the two nations, said Singh. He pointed out that the decision to institutionalise -- though the offices of the US state department and the Indian ministry of external affairs -- the change of views on the Taliban regime was an indicator of the importance that was being given to the issue by both India and Pakistan. President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee also agreed to move a statement on Afghanistan in the UN that would be supported both by the US and India.
Replying to a question about the Pakistan-China arms nexus, Singh said India had not raised complaints about any other country. Other regional issues raised included Asian security, which came up both in the meetings with Clinton and the meeting with the Foreign Relations Committee at Capitol Hill on Thursday.
As far as nuclear non-proliferation was concerned, Singh stated the joint statement was an apt summation of the Indo-US views. He added, though, that India's security perceptions and considerations would always remain the top priority.
Singh added that, in the bilateral meeting headed by Clinton and Vajpayee, India expressed its concern about the use of narcotics and its trade to finance terrorism. It was decided that this would be discussed in the counter-terrorism consultations that are scheduled to be held between India and the US in New Delhi on September 25-26.
He highlighted the US acceptance of India's role in the world stage by pointing out the interest expressed by both the presidential candidates, George Bush and Al Gore. He also said that Clinton spoke of the leadership provided by India in South Asia. Clinton, he added, had said India had a role to play in the world and that role could soon be in grasp if the Indian economy kept pace with India's vision.
The president also expressed his satisfaction about taking Indo-US relations to a new plane. "Whoever now succeeds me has only to pick up the ball and run with it," he said.
Vice-President Gore, said Singh, has remarked on the most enthusiastic attendance at the luncheon he hosted in the prime minister's honour. Clinton informed Singh he had to turn down the highest number of requests for invitations to the banquet he was hosting for the prime minister. The president, added Singh, said he would host the highest number of invitees in his entire stint at the White House at the banquet for Vajpayee.
Highlighting the extraordinary turnaround in Indo-US relations in the last two-and-a-half years, Singh credited it to the statesmanship exhibited by the two leaders. He rejected concern about any dip in Indo-US relations after the new administration came into place – the US national election takes place on November 2 – pointing out that the bipartisan support accorded to India was a major achievement of the visit.
He added that Vajpayee had been according a special distinction when he met the US Foreign Relations Committee at Capitol Hill after his address to the House. In an unprecedented gesture, it was suggested that the prime minister be introduced to the Senate. Unfortunately, because of his structured programme, the prime minister could not accept the invitation.
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!
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