September 2000 News

US Appreciates Indian Stance On Talks With Pakistan

2 September 2000
The Hindustan Times
S Rajagopalan

Washington DC: AHEAD OF the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee''s visit, the US has conveyed its broad appreciation of India''s position that cross-border terrorism should cease before any resumption of dialogue with Pakistan could be considered. It has also promised to strengthen cooperation with India on counter-terrorism measures. Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh, who held consultations here with US Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering to prepare the ground for the Prime Minister''s visit, outlined an elaborate agenda for the Vajpayee-Clinton talks on September 15 to keep up the new momentum on Indo-US relations. Apparently to set at rest doubts that the Prime Minister''s health may cast a further shadow on the visit, Mr Mansingh told newspersons that Mr Vajpayee''s schedule in Washington was actually being expanded. However, prior to that in New York, ''some time would be provided for rest'' after his UN address and other engagements. On Kashmir, India stuck to the stand that Pakistan should stop aiding and abetting terrorism from across the border if the stalled dialogue were to be resumed. It has also made clear that Pakistan cannot be a party to the current (disrupted) dialogue with outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen. To questions on the US''s response to India''s terms for dialogue with Pakistan, Mr Mansingh commented: ''The Americans have shown appreciation of our position.'' He, however, parried supplementaries on whether the US position now reflected a fundamental change from its earlier insistence on resumption of dialogue. The Foreign Secretary ruled out the possibility of any meeting between Mr Vajpayee and Pakistan''s Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the UN millennium summit in New York. At his meeting with Mr Pickering, which also constituted the third round of Foreign Office consultations between the two countries, Mr Mansingh did not bring up the issue of post-Pokhran II sanctions ''since our position is known''. In reply to a query, he said: ''We have not appealed to them to lift the sanctions.'' On the CTBT issue over which the US is not ready for any compromise, Mr Mansingh informed that the Indian Government was still in the process of evolving a national consensus. A discussion in Parliament could not get under way because of Power Minister Rangarajan Kumaramangalam''s death on the scheduled date. Questioned on the progress of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation talks between the two countries, the Foreign Secretary said: ''The gap has narrowed, though not bridged.'' He disclosed that there could be a meeting between External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The Vajpayee-Clinton meeting would review progress on the points set out in the ''Vision Statement'' issued at the end of the US President''s Indian visit last March. The elaborate ''dialogue architecture'' envisaged as a follow-up activity has been completed over the past six months. A joint statement would be issued at the end of the Prime Minister''s visit. In addition, there will be a separate statement on Indo-US cooperation in IT and Biotechnology.


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