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Bush virtually hijacks Advani-Rice meeting

Aziz Haniffa in Washington | June 10, 2003 09:43 IST

President George W Bush didn't just drop in on the meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

With him being there for 30 of the 38 minutes Advani spent with Rice, it was virtually a Bush-Advani summit during which he assured the Indian leader of doing some blunt talking with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on cross-border terrorism.

President Bush is slated to meet President Musharraf at Camp David on June 24.

Administration and diplomatic sources said that Bush, who walked into the meeting between Advani and Rice a few minutes into their conversation, had immediately told Advani how much he admired Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's peace initiative and described him as a statesman.

Almost on cue, according to the sources, Advani had told Bush that India is committed to peace in the region but that Pakistan continues to foment cross-border terrorism and unless this is halted permanently, New Delhi could not be expected to enter into high level talks with Islamabad or engage in a peace process.

"President Bush did say he would speak to President Musharraf (in this regard) when he comes to the US," Advani told reporters at the White House after emerging from the meeting.

Advani, obviously buoyed by the extended drop-in by Bush, recalled that "When In I had come here in January last year, I was to meet the National Security Adviser in Washington. Shortly after the meeting began, the president of the United States dropped in."

"A similar thing happened today and we were together for nearly half-an-hour," he said.

"India is happy at the kind of relationship that is developing between our two countries, which is fully reflected in the security strategy document published in the name of the president last year."

Advani said that Bush had "expressed appreciation of Prime Minister Vajpayee's peace initiative," and recalled his discussions with the prime minister in St Petersburg in Russia.

"We can only hope that Pakistan responds positively to this initiative and it yields results."

Bush, according to Advani, had noted that "India can take an initiative of this kind only when it is confident of its security," and agreed that 'every country has to look after its security'.

"We also share that concern," he added.

When asked if there had been any discussion of a US role to facilitate an Indo-Pak rapprochement, Advani said, "Not specifically. We expressed our concerns, our problems."

Advani said he reiterated Vajpayee's invitation to Bush in St Petersburg to visit India.

"I had the occasion to repeat it and emphasised that he make a visit to India before getting lost in the election campaign. I hope he will be able to come."

Earlier in the day, Advani had a working luncheon with Attorney General John Ashcroft, where terrorism was one of the issues on the agenda, which included the envisaged implementation of the mutual assistance treaty between the US and India as well as the extradition treaty.

The intelligence inputs that "could be shared with America, we handed over to Ashcroft" and also discussed "what needs to be done further in sharing of intelligence," he said.

During the luncheon with Ashcroft, Advani was accompanied by Intelligence Bureau Director K P Singh and Home Secretary Gopalaswamy.

"It may be recalled that I had come to the United States last year at his invitation, and today, I invited him to visit India and he has agreed in principle," Advani told reporters.

According to officials, Ashcroft is likely to be in India by the end of the year.

Advani said his meetings with Ashcroft and Rice were "complementary to each other," and noted that following the demise of the Cold War a 'conscious effort was being made by the two countries' to broaden the relationship and not limit it to specific issues.

"It is not an alliance of convenience. It is a principled relationship between the world's largest democracies," Advani said.

"It is proceeding very satisfactorily in this direction as is apparent in the coordination and cooperation in the field of defense, in respect to terrorism and even in the intelligence sphere."

Advani in US: Complete Coverage

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