August 2000 News

Clinton calls up PM, expresses support

2 August 2000
The Hindu
Harish Khare

New Delhi: The United States has expressed its sympathies and support to India in the aftermath of the series of massacres in Jammu and Kashmir in the last 24 hours, which have resulted in over 90 deaths. The President, Mr. Bill Clinton, rang up the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, this evening to express his disapproval of the wanton killings and promised to ''speak to the leaders of Pakistan and do everything possible to contain such activities.'' The American President also ''expressed his admiration for the Prime Minister''s positive response to the ceasefire offer made by the Hizbul Mujahideen.'' This expression of support has come as a big relief to the Vajpayee establishment which was beginning to feel just a bit rattled after the militants staged a virtual death dance in Jammu and Kashmir. A high ranking official of the administration described the President''s 10-minute telephonic talk as ''significant'' and a clear enunciation of the American stance of support for the incipient ''peace process'' in Jammu and Kashmir. On his part, the Prime Minister pointed out to Mr. Clinton that the massacres of the last 24 hours fell into a pattern of ''every peace initiative being responded to with terrorist acts sponsored by Pakistan.'' He cited the Kargil intrusion which followed the Lahore initiative and the Chattisingpura massacre during Mr. Clinton''s visit. Mr. Vajpayee told the American President that it would be difficult for India to ''exercise restraint in the face of such outrages.'' Consequently, there could be no basis of any kind of ''meaningful dialogue with Pakistan''. Nonetheless, Mr. Vajpayee assured that ''the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir would continue.'' The Indian Government is inclined to see three elements in the American President''s message. First, a clear-cut expression of support in the face of such dastardly acts of terrorism; second, an indirect acknowledgement of the Pakistani culpability for the cold-blooded killings on such an extensive scale as has been witnessed in the last 24 hours; and, third, an endorsement of the peace process with the Hizbul. This expression of unequivocal support for the Vajpayee Government''s Kashmir initiative could not have come at a better time, because the ruling establishment was finding it difficult to answer the perception at home that the Government was allowing the United States to dictate a ''peace'' agenda; armed with the words of support from the American President, the Vajpayee regime need not, at least for now, bat on the back foot.


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