June 1999 News


Concern in Pakistan over Clinton's letter

5 June 1999

WASHINGTON, June 5: President Bill Clinton's advice to Pakistan to respect the Line of Control in Kashmir, given in a letter he sent to India and Pakistani prime ministers, is causing concern in Pakistani diplomatic circles here amid visible gloating among the Indians over a perceived diplomatic victory.

The Clinton letter sent a couple of days back, the text of which has not been released, was confirmed by White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, but the pleasantly surprised Indians broke the news in New Delhi forcing Pakistan to adopt an evasive posture about its contents.

The Indian media is comfortably giving the spin to the Clinton letter and the visibly happy mood has been reflected in various reports which say the Indians are happy that the Americans have understood New Delhi's compulsions on Kargil and the need to flush out Pakistanbacked infiltrators from Indian territory.

One report said "the US, which sets the tone for Western reaction, has for the first time in an IndiaPakistan conflict not tilted towards Islamabad."

Clinton's remarks are also being attached greater importance because of the latest statement by Pakistani foreign minister Sartaj Aziz who basically challenged the legality of the LoC saying it was nothing sacred or had never been delineated.

Indians are now insisting that the sanctity of the LoC was a major issue and they are trying to add substance to their argument by quoting the view of Richard Celeste, the US ambassador to India.

Celeste was reported to have said at a roundtable organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on Friday night, that he hoped "the intruders would be withdrawn as quickly as possible and the military action (by India) could be scaled back."

He pointed out that Washington was keen to ensure that "things (did) not spread or spill over. We know the government of India is working very hard under tough circumstances to make sure that doesn't happen."

Indians have taken strong exception to what they describe as an "untenable suggestion on an altered Line of Control" taken by Sartaj Aziz. An Indian Foreign Office spokesman said there was now no meeting ground in the Indian and Pakistani standpoints on the LoC.

"India has scrupulously respected the Line of Control despite the continued forcible and illegal occupation of a large part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir," the spokesman said and in an obvious overreaction went on to say that "Jammu and Kashmir, in its entirety, is an integral part of India."

Worried about this latest Pakistani war or words, the spokesman said Pakistan was a party to the delineation of the LoC which was based on the Simla agreement. The delineation was approved on December 11, 1972 and adjustments of ground position to conform to the LoC were also completed subsequently.

"Neither the disposition of the ground forces nor of control of the territory flowing from the delineation of the Line of Control has ever been questioned by either country and the interpretation of the Line of Control has never been an issue. Mr Aziz's enunciation of an irresponsible and dubious doctrine demonstrates Pakistan's designs to manufacture a rationale for aggression and to gain for it an expost facto respectability. This futile effort is meant to divert attention from the central issue of Pakistan's armed intrusion and aggression."

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart stopped short of giving any details about the Clinton letter but only said: "The President has written to both leaders urging restraint. That's all I have as an update."

Secretary of State Albright has also been reported to have called PM Nawaz Sharif and have asked him to get the intruders out of Kargil and reestablish the LoC.

Assistant secretary of state for South Asia, Karl Inderfurth, followed through Ms Albright's tough talk by summoning Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, Riaz Khokhar, to give the same message, according to one Indian report not confirmed here.

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