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February 7, 2000
India visit to be regarded 'failure' if Clinton goes to Pak
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
New Delhi will regard President Bill Clinton's Indian visit a "failure" if he proceeds to Islamabad during his impending sub-continental tour.
This is the conclusion drawn by the policy-makers in South Block following indications that, despite the earlier snub to Pakistan, Clinton might go there after all.
"We are very clear that President Clinton's Indian visit is to strengthen Indo-US relations and we are happy about it. But the goodwill thus generated will be undone if he proceeds to Islamabad which has been aiding and abetting cross-border terrorism against India," sources in the ministry of external affairs told rediff.com.
They pointed out that senior US officials in Washington including White House spokesman James Rubin has asserted that President Clinton's Pakistan visit would not materialise because of General Pervez Musharraf's inability to indicate when his country would return to a democratic government.
After ousting prime minister Nawaz Sharief in a coup on October 12 last year, General Musharraf had conveyed to the international community, especially Clinton, that he would soon ensure that his country got back on the democratic track.
According to a senior official in the Pakistan desk of the MEA, India is unhappy that the US president is equating it, the world's largest democracy, with Pakistan which has experienced several dictatorial regimes and is a state sponsor of terrorism as has been witnessed in Islamabad's granting refuge to terrorists like Maulana Masood Azhar. Azhar has recently surfaced in Pakistan and has been exhorting Islamic militants to unleash jehad (holy war) against India in order to "liberate" Kashmir.
"We have always maintained that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism. Washington has also warned Islamabad that unless it stops the activities of terrorists like Maulana Azhar, it could be put up on the list of the states sponsoring terrorism. And now noises are being made in Washington that President Clinton might go to Islamabad and we are not amused," the MEA official averred.
He indicated that there was a "tendency" by a section of the US officials to ignore the provocative acts by Pakistan, especially against India, but New Delhi was determined to expose Islamabad's omissions and commissions pertaining to international terrorism.
That is why Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a tough stance yesterday by emphasising that India would not rest until it recovered Pakistan-occupied Kashmir from the clutches of Islamabad, he pointed out.
Chintamani Mahapatra, a specialist on international security affairs in Jawaharlal Nehru University, justified New Delhi's anxiety regarding a possible visit to Islamabad by the US president.
He pointed out that, with the uncertainty still hanging over Clinton's Pakistan's visit, General Musharraf had begun sending conciliatory signals to Washington and was desperately seeking to entice the US president to his country by hook or by crook.
Mahapatra pointed out that General Musharraf was now saying that Clinton's Islamabad visit would provide a unique opportunity to promote a peaceful solution to Kashmir but New Delhi was keen that the US president should overlook Pakistan during his sub-continental tour.
The sources said the opinion in Washington was divided over whether Clinton should visit Pakistan.
While the Pakistan caucus of American legislators were lobbying that the US president visit to Islamabad would settle the "vexed issue of Kashmir," counter-intelligence officials had warned that Clinton's security would be the major problem because of the threat from the Islamic hardliners who were interacting with international terrorists masquerading as militants.
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