The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bush dials Atal after terror jibe

New Delhi, March 4: Less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called the US “weak” for not being able to force Pakistan to give up export of terror, President George W. Bush was on the phone, assuring him that Washington would continue to “apply pressure” on Islamabad to stop cross-border terrorism.

In a seven-minute conversation with Vajpayee this evening, the US President told him that “the US continues to apply pressure on Pakistan on the matter of cross-border terrorism and particularly to ensure that infiltration does not increase as the snow melts”.

Replying on the motion of thanks to the President’s address yesterday, Vajpayee had criticised the US for not exerting enough pressure on Pakistan. Terming Washington’s inability to prevent cross-border terrorism as “its weakness”, the Prime Minister had said this would impact India’s future strategy.

It is not clear whether Vajpayee’s outburst in Parliament led to Bush’s call or whether it was part of the routine calls he is making to some of America’s close allies to explain its position on Iraq and the developments at the UN Security Council. But the Indian establishment seems pleased that the call came at a time when doubts were being raised in some quarters about the health of Indo-US relations.

Vajpayee told Bush that India was willing to resume dialogue with Pakistan and talk on “all issues”, but only once cross-border terrorism comes to an end. Delhi’s stated position was repeated last Sunday, too, after Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf offered to resume talks with India during an interview with a private Indian television channel.

On Iraq, the Indian position still seems to be evolving. Although India has called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, senior foreign ministry officials in private are advocating flexibility in its stand to keep up with the fast-paced developments on Baghdad. Vajpayee articulated this line of thought in the Lok Sabha yesterday when he said Delhi should adopt “the middle path” to take care of its national interests.

Bush spoke about efforts in the UN Security Council to frame another resolution regarding “compliance by Iraq on weapons of mass destruction”. Indications are that the second resolution will be moved jointly by the US, the UK and Spain, making it clear that Saddam Hussein’s time has run out and it is now time for armed action.

The US President’s call might have been part of his drive to garner support for the proposed resolution that it is likely to be moved either on March 13 or 14.

India has been talking about a resolution of the crisis through the UN. The Americans have argued that there is hardly any difference between the stands taken by India and Washington on the Iraqi crisis.

If the Bush administration can garner nine of the 15 votes in the Security Council for the resolution, it will build an argument in favour of the Americans that they didn’t have to go in for unilateral action, it was the UN that took the final decision. It would then make it easier for countries like India to support the US.

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