Visions merge in violence shock
A piece of Kashmir for New York home
36 gunned down in first strike on Kashmir Sikhs
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New Delhi, March 21 
Virtually endorsing India’s stand on Kashmir, President Bill Clinton expressed “outrage” at last night’s carnage in the valley and said that an end to terrorist violence and respect for the Line of Control were a must for talks to resume with Pakistan.

At the same time, Clinton made a fresh appeal to India to sit across the negotiations table. “You have to find some way to resume the dialogue,” he said.

During their 45-minute talks at Hyderabad House, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee accepted an invitation from Clinton to visit the US later in the year.

The two sides signed a vision statement that would serve as the foundation for future ties. They agreed to institutionalise their dialogue at all levels, starting with “regular” summits between the US President and the Indian Prime Minister.

Clinton appreciated the “brave” decision taken by Vajpayee to drive up to Lahore last year in an attempt to resolve disputes.

“But you cannot expect a dialogue to go on unless there is absence of violence and there is respect for Line of Control,” he said.

A firm but reasonable Vajpayee refused to yield any ground on signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. “I have explained to President Clinton the reasons that compel us to maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent. I have reiterated our firm commitments not to conduct further nuclear tests, not to engage in a nuclear arms race and not to be the first to use nuclear weapons against any country.”

In a softening of stance, Clinton said he understood India’s security concerns and hoped that the democratic process in the country would finally allow it to both sign and ratify the CTBT.

India, which has ruled out third-party mediation in its disputes with Pakistan, felt vindicated with the US agreeing that “tensions in South Asia can only be resolved by the nations of South Asia”.

However, the President, while assuring Vajpayee that he will discuss cross-border terrorism with Pakistan’s military leader Pervez Musharraf on Friday, sought to ensure that his dialogue with the junta did not crash even before taking off.

As Delhi pointed an accusing finger at Islamabad for the massacre of 36 Sikhs, Clinton, who said he had discussed the issue with Vajpayee, refused to state that Pakistan had a hand in the killings.

“We have to know who did it before there can be a conclusion about that,” he said.

Clinton outlined four principles which, according to him, could help bring down the temperature in the subcontinent: restraint by all countries concerned, respect for the LoC, renewing the dialogue and stopping violence.

“I doubt very seriously that there is a military solution to the difficulties that the Kashmiris face and that makes the deaths of these Sikhs all the more tragic and the importance of trying to restart the dialogue all the more important,” he said.

Vajpayee reciprocated by saying that India was keen on solving differences with Pakistan peacefully, and he allayed fears of another war between the nuclear twins.

“India is committed to peaceful means. We are prepared to solve all problems, discuss all problems on the table. We do not think in terms of war and nobody should think in those terms in the subcontinent,” he said.

“I’m sure that after visiting this part of the world, the President will come to the conclusion that the situation is not so bad as it is made out to be,” Vajpayee added.

“There are differences, there have been clashes, innocent people are being killed. But there is no threat of war.”

But the Prime Minister sent a veiled warning to Pakistan. “We have the means and the will to eliminate this menace,” he said.

Lashing out at Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, Vajpayee said: “The attempt at cloaking acts of terrorism in the guise of jehad carries no conviction. We and the international community reject the notion that jehad can be part of any civilised country’s foreign policy.”    

New Delhi, March 21 
Beauty preceded the beast. Before being shaken by today’s butchery, President Bill Clinton was bewitched by the exquisite dreams woven in the Valley, otherwise known as Kashmiri carpets.

Within hours of arriving here on Sunday night, Clinton struck his first business deal — a very personal one — at Maurya Sheraton hotel itself and bought three Kashmiri rugs.

After a lavish dinner at the Bukhara, the President headed straight towards Shop No. 6 at the hotel — the National Cottage Emporium, or the “NCE” as it is popularly known — to shop for his new home in New York.

“The President visited my shop straight after dinner. I am so honoured and happy. The way he mingled with us, I just can’t believe it. I am really proud that his first agreement in India was with me,” said an excited Manzoor Wangnoo, the shop-owner from Kashmir.

He also announced that the President, who did not touch Indian water, had two cups of Kashmiri tea called kahwa.

Clinton spent 45 minutes in the shop with daughter Chelsea and mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham. Scheduled to spend only 10 minutes, the President bought three carpets — one silk and two chainstich carpets.

Wangnoo, whose shop Hillary Clinton had also visited, had woven the 9x12 chainstich carpet, the bigger of the two, specially for the First Family’s living room in their new home.

“I took six months to get this carpet ready for the First Family. I knew madam Hillary Clinton’s choice. I have used 20 different colours in this carpet.”

Wangnoo said Clinton was thrilled by the carpet. “This is exactly what I was looking for,” he reportedly said. The particular kind of carpet, known as the “Star of Kashmir”, has 729 knots per inch. “I even taught the President how to count knots,” he added.

But what swept Clinton off his feet was a carpet with 7,569 knots per square inch. “He got so excited that he sprawled on the carpet to feel it. He turned to his mother-in-law and exclaimed: ‘It is really beautiful’”, Wangnoo recounted. But the President did not buy that one.

Clinton is not the only high-power American Wangnoo has for customer. US secretary of state Madeleine Albright bought more than 10 pure pashmina shawls from the shop. A pashmina costs anywhere between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000. Wangnoo will not reveal how much the Americans spent. “I just cannot reveal that. Please,” he said.

The President has left a thank-you note for Wangnoo. It says: “Manzoor, Sagoor and Ashraf — Thank you for your beautiful rugs. Bill Clinton 3.19.2000.” Clinton has also left an invitation. “I have been invited to see his new house and decorate it accordingly,” he said.    

Srinagar, March 21 
Timing a terror sweep with Bill Clinton’s visit, gunmen lined up and shot dead 36 Sikh villagers in southern Kashmir late last night.

Clinton expressed “outrage” at “the brutal attack in Kashmir”, and said it highlighted “the tremendous suffering this conflict has caused India. The violence must end,” he said.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee described the massacre of Sikhs — the first in Kashmir — as an act of “ethnic cleansing”.

Vajpayee alleged that there was a “deliberate design” to foment killings and mass murders to sabotage any attempt to restore normality in Kashmir.

“I hope this question will be discussed by the President in Islamabad,” he said, prompting Clinton to reply that he “will” take up the issue of cross-border terrorism with Pakistani leaders.

National security adviser Brajesh Mishra blamed the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen for the attack. “These outfits are supported by the government of Pakistan,” Mishra said, adding that India had evidence pointing to these groups.

Pakistan “condemned” the killings and demanded a probe, voicing fears that India might exploit the incident for propaganda.

Police said the group of around 50 militants swooped down on Chati Singhpora village in Anantnag, 68 km from here, and forced the residents into the road in two groups. They segregated the men from the women, announcing that they were carrying out a “crackdown”.

The gunmen, wearing combat uniforms, opened fire on the men, killing 34 of them and seriously wounding three who were shifted to a hospital in Anantnag. Two of them succumbed to wounds there. A woman, identified as Virender Kaur, died due to shock after seeing the bodies, police said.

Nanak Singh, writhing in pain at the Bone and Joint Hospital here, said the AK47-wielding militants attacked the village of 250 Sikh families shortly after 10 pm. Singh had just finished evening prayers and was about to leave the gurdwara when he was stopped by a band of masked gunmen.

“I, along with other villagers, was stopped and they started asking questions and checking identity cards. A few of them entered nearby houses and asked the Sikh villagers to come out,” he said. “Suddenly, the gunmen started firing. I saw my fellow Sikhs lying in a pool of blood. I was struck in the leg; I tried to flee but couldn’t and fainted.”

Nanak was carried to a hospital in Anantnag, but he had to be brought here after his condition deteriorated.

Naseeb Singh, accompanying Nanak, said the militants later went to Samadhal hall, another gurdwara, and dragged out the devotees before shooting them from point-blank range.

The killings sparked sporadic violence in Jammu, forcing the administration to clamp a curfew this afternoon.

BSF camp attack

In the evening, two militants stormed a BSF camp in Srinagar, exploding grenades and firing at random. The stand-off was continuing at 11 pm.    

Temperature: Maximum: 34.4°C (Normal) Minimum: 20°C (-2) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 91%, Minimum: 30% Today: Mainly clear sky. Slight rise in maximum and minimum temperature. Sunset: 5.43 pm Sunrise: 5.43 am    

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