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Advani to meet US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Aziz Haniffa in Washington |
June 08, 2003 23:21 IST
Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani will kick off his visit to the United States Sunday with an unscheduled meeting with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, according to Bush Administration and diplomatic sources.
Rumsfeld has publicly acknowledged Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf for his country's role as a frontline ally in the US-led war on terrorism.
Advani was originally to begin the official part of his visit to Washington only on Monday, June 9, with a meeting in the morning with Attorney General John Ashcroft and then an afternoon discussion at the White House with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, during which President George W Bush was expected to drop in.
On Tuesday, he was scheduled to meet with his host Vice-President Dick Cheney and the new-appointed Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.
A meeting with Rumsfeld was not on the schedule nor was one with Secretary of State Colin Powell and his Deputy Richard Armitage, who were both out of the country.
But sources said that in a tangible manifestation of the importance the Bush Administration attaches to the visit and Advani himself, Washington had worked out a slot in Rumsfeld's schedule to accommodate Advani.
The sources acknowledged the discussions would centre around the crown jewels in the burgeoning US-India relationship - the blossoming defence and military ties that are envisaged to ultimately seal a strategic partnership between the two countries - the post-Saddam Iraq situation, terrorism and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's recent peace overtures to Pakistan.
Despite Rumsfeld's views, Advani, the sources said, would nonetheless strongly impress upon the US defence secretary that Pakistan continues to foment cross border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and a high-level dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad was unlikely till the latter stops supporting terrorism.
Setting the tone for his talks with American leaders, Advani told Sahara TV that India saw no change in Pakistan's 'intention' on terrorism.
"Terrorist acts are still on although there are ups and downs. But it does not appear that there is a change in the intention of the neighbour (Pakistan)" on terrorism, he told the channel.
He said the issue would figure in his talks with the leaders of the US and Britain but emphasised India's 'resolve' to defeat terrorism and would not wait for support from any country in this regard.
Advani said he would listen to what the US has to say on this matter while conveying India's point of view.
During the last one year, India has told the US several times that it had 'no expectation' from any country with regard to fight against terrorism, he said.
Asked about double standards adopted by the US vis-à-vis fight against terrorism, Advani said every country had the right to decide whom to support on the basis of its foreign policy and India was not complaining.
The sources said Advani, who will travel by train from New York to Washington, would immediately make a bee-line for the Pentagon for his meeting with Rumsfeld and then visit the Durga temple in Fairfax Station, Virginia where he will have his first interaction with the Indian American community on his visit to the US this time around - the first as deputy prime minister.
Originally, he was to visit the Durga temple around half-past noon and break bread with the devotees and members of the community.
The plan was changed after the Rumsfeld appointment came up.
As per the revised schedule, he would make it to the temple around half past two in the afternoon and would be received by the head priest of the temple and the board of trustees.
Advani would then interact with the assembled people before heading back downtown to the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, where he will be staying.
On Sunday evening, he will attend a reception in his honour hosted by Ambassador Lalit Mansingh at the Omni Shoreham Hotel where several hundred members of the Indian American community from across the country are expected to meet the deputy prime minister.
With inputs from PTI