Clinton carries Atal’s talks terms
PM finds banquet barb hard to swallow
Protocol snub on Pakistan Day
Ranga resume does the rounds
Calcutta weather

 
 
CLINTON CARRIES ATAL’S TALKS TERMS 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, March 23 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has assured President Bill Clinton that India is willing to resume its dialogue with Pakistan. But this assurance, conveyed to the US President during Vajpayee’s talks in New Delhi this week, came with three conditions. Pakistan must not promote or support violence in Kashmir, it must respect the Line of Control (LoC), and third, Pervez Musharraf’s junta must reaffirm the principles of the Lahore Declaration.

Armed with this assurance, Clinton will use his charm and his powers of persuasion on Saturday in talks with Musharraf to persuade Pakistan to suspend, for a limited period, its support for cross-border terrorism in Kashmir.

According to insiders’ accounts of Indo-US interaction in New Delhi this week, reaching here through diplomatic channels, Clinton has no intention of being harsh with Musharraf nor will he read the riot act to the general as the Indians are so fond of saying.

Instead, he will pay tributes to Pakistan for having been a wonderful ally of the US, for having cooperated with Washington in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the bomb blast at the World Trade Centre in New York and the shooting at the CIA headquarters. He will also praise Pakistan for the role it played during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But having done that, he will try to convince Musharraf on the basis of his talks with Vajpayee that there cannot be a military solution to Kashmir.

By trying to jump -start the dialogue with Pakistan, interrupted following Kargil, Clinton is actually trying to mediate between India and Pakistan. But in his talks with Vajpayee, the US President finessed his mediatory effort so beautifully that India could hardly take any objection.

Clinton acknowledged to Vajpayee that the US had no role in Kashmir. He even said India had every right to say that Washington should not meddle in Kashmir. But he qualified this assertion with the argument that the US had a definite interest in trying to avert a larger conflict in South Asia and in trying to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan. “I think we do have a clear interest there,” he is said to have told Vajpayee.

According to inside information trickling in here about the President’s South Asian tour, Clinton is not expecting to wave any magic wand and bring peace to South Asia. Instead, he is looking at a long term US involvement in the South Asian peace process —— something which will outlive his tenure in the White House.

Clinton said as much in an interview in New Delhi on Tuesday to ABC World News. “I don’t think the US can be involved in a three-way attempt to settle the Kashmir issue, unless and until they both want us,” he told ABC anchor Peter Jennings. “I think that the evidence —— you know, if you look at, we’re in the Middle East because they both want us, not to say that either side agrees with everything I say and do, but we have a certain credibility there borne of years and years and years of labour and a welcoming into the process. The same thing is true of the Irish peace process.”

“So I think that right now what I need to do is to try to convince both sides to avoid the worst —— and there is something to be said for avoiding the worst here. And then to adopt some common principles which will allow the resumption of the dialogue. If we can get them to renounce violence as a way of resolving this and to restore their dialogue, respect the LoC so the dialogue can be restored, then who knows what will happen and what they decide to do and how they decide to do it.

According to accounts reaching here, Vajpayee’s passionate argument that much of the violence in Kashmir is organised from across the border appears to have made an impact on Clinton. The US is now willing to concede that a share of the violence in Kashmir has been organised by what Clinton called “third parties”.

However, the President is still unwilling to blame Pakistan’s government for this. He told Jennings: “I don’t want to accuse Pakistan of something it didn’t do...I believe that there are elements within the Pakistani government that have supported those who engaged in violence in Kashmir.”

The massacre of 35 Sikh villagers in Kashmir on the day Clinton began his official part of the visit to New Delhi appears to have hardened Clinton’s stand on cross-border terror in Kashmir. He has conveyed to his associates his resolve to tell Musharraf that deliberate acts of violence will not get the US involved in South Asia.

Sources here do not expect Musharraf to publicly respond to Clinton’s initiative to stop Pakistan’s support for terror in Kashmir. Instead, they will watch the situation on the ground to determine whether there has been any let-up in the violence.

So will the Indians in order to decide whether it is conducive to resuming talks with Islamabad.

Sources here also noticed that one of Vajpayee’s conditions for resuming the dialogue was a reaffirmation of the “principles” of the Lahore Declaration —— not the Lahore Declaration itself which Musharraf is clearly allergic to.    


 
 
PM FINDS BANQUET BARB HARD TO SWALLOW 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 23 
Only half a kilometre separates South Block from Rashtrapati Bhavan. But the distance has widened to miles after Tuesday’s banquet for President Bill Clinton.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is miffed with President K.R. Narayanan for his thinly veiled swipe at Clinton while raising a toast to the guest who, in the run-up to the visit, had described the subcontinent as the “most dangerous place in the world”.

Narayanan said: “It has been suggested that the Indian subcontinent is the most dangerous place in the world today and Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint. These alarmist descriptions will only encourage those who want to break the peace and indulge in terrorism and violence.”

Vajpayee had left strict instructions several months ago to his staff that not a word should be uttered against Raisina Hills. When contacted, his aides refused to comment on Narayanan’s remark.

But the statement has triggered apprehensions that Vajpayee, who respects the office of the President despite differences, will now find it difficult to communicate with an incumbent who is “trespassing” into the jurisdiction of the elected executive.

Sources unhappy with Narayanan’s unusually blunt speech said the government had agreed on a tenor of warm cordiality for the first US presidential visit in 22 years. Narayanan’s “harsh” tone, therefore, struck a note of discord.

The sources pointed out that even Vajpayee, earlier in the day, had spoken firmly, underlining the differences between India and the US without sounding disapproving.

The sources said “tone and tenor” were an integral part of diplomacy. Narayanan, a former diplomat who was ambassador in Washington between 1980 and 1984, is aware of the fallout of even a minute shift in nuances. The Western media pounced on the speech and was quick to highlight the “snub”.

Narayanan’s reference to the Non-aligned Movement also raised eyebrows because it does not figure on the National Democratic Alliance agenda.

The sources said that some dignitaries were taken aback by the “brusque” tone of the speech and were heard saying that these were “expressions of pent-up emotions of a Nehruvian socialist”.

According to the sources, Rashtrapati Bhavan — which, too, has refused comment — is likely to argue that the speech did not deviate from India’s foreign policy framework. But the government sources said Narayanan had “misread” the spirit of the discussion and misinterpreted the mood of the dialogue.

What has hurt Vajpayee is that despite the differences, every effort was being made by both sides to beam a single message from Delhi. The President’s speech somewhat spoiled the new-found camaraderie.    


 
 
PROTOCOL SNUB ON PAKISTAN DAY 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, March 23 
In a loud message to Islamabad, the Centre sent Lt. Governor of Delhi Vijay Kapoor — who is way down in the pecking order — as its representative at the Pakistan National Day function here.

Usually the Vice-President represents India at the national day celebrations of other countries. But last year, following the bonhomie over the Lahore bus diplomacy, foreign minister Jaswant Singh represented the government at the celebrations to mark Pakistan’s National Day.

Today Kapoor and Vivek Katju, joint secretary in the foreign ministry who looks after the Pakistan desk, were the two lone figures from the Indian side at the Pakistan High Commission lawns.

The decision to send the Lt. Governor, junior to a Cabinet secretary or a minister of state, indicates a deliberate attempt by Delhi to keep its contact with Islamabad at the lowest level possible, without snapping off diplomatic ties.

The sprawling lawns of the high commission were not empty, however. Several foreign diplomats — mostly middle-ranking — and a host of mediapersons were present. Abdul Ghani Lone of the Hurriyat Conference was among the few Kashmiri leaders.

Pakistan’s high commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi tried to ignore the slight. “It’s a good thing. Most of you will not have a story to write,” he told reporters.

Qazi rebutted President Bill Clinton’s remarks in a CNN interview that some elements in the Pakistani government had a hand in the terrorist activities in Kashmir. “What else do you expect the American President to say when he is on Indian soil?” Qazi said.

Referring to India’s national security adviser Brajesh Mishra’s allegation that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen were responsible for the massacre of Sikhs in Kashmir, Qazi said: “India will a point a finger at Pakistan for whatever happens.”

He said that India had also accused Pakistan of masterminding the Indian Airlines hijack. “But no one was convinced by what India had said,” the high commissioner added.

Though no Indian official went on record, in private many expressed their glee that South Block had finally managed to give Islamabad a royal snub by sending Kapoor. “We should treat them with the contempt they deserve,” an official said.

The decision is aimed at telling both the US and Pakistan that India is in no mood to resume talks unless Islamabad creates the right atmosphere.    


 
 
RANGA RESUME DOES THE ROUNDS 
 
 
FROM M. RAJENDRAN
 
New Delhi, March 23 
Staring at the beautiful card they had been handed, American businessmen were left wondering. Does P. Rangarajan Kumaramangalam expect to be out of work soon?

With the national emblem upfront, the cream-coloured four-pager contained inside the resume of India’s power minister.

“Is he applying for a post in the US?” asked an amused American businessman who was attending a ceremony held at the US embassy. Thirteen agreements were signed there between US and Indian companies in power, information technology, environment and tourism.

Software professionals looking for jobs in the US had better watch out: they may have a Cabinet minister as rival. Kumaramangalam, who claims to be the pioneer in power reforms, has “keen interest in computers, information technology”.

He has another advantage over them. They certainly can’t afford to present their civvies in such a grand manner. And, of course, they are not powerful enough to get the Power Finance Corporation to pick up the tab. It cost the corporation, which funds power projects and not power-packed presentations of personal portfolios, Rs 5 lakh to have the cards printed.

An Indian software company official was left puzzled: “I don’t remember Kumaramangalam ever making any statement about IT when he was science and technology minister. How come he’s now claiming he has a keen interest in computers and IT?”

The buzz of amusement among the businessmen had at its root the rumour that Kumaramangalam’s days at the power ministry are numbered.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 33.2°C (-2) Minimum: 23.8°C (+2) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 93%, Minimum: 39% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Slight rise in maximum temperature. Not much change in minimum temperature Sunset: 5.44 pm Sunrise: 5.41 am    
 

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