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Delhi hope from Armitage visit low

New Delhi, April 25: Delhi is keeping its expectations low from the visit of US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage.

The caution stems from uncertainty over the Bush administration’s degree of willingness to use its leverage with Pakistan to ensure an end to cross-border-terrorism, a condition India wants fulfilled for reopening talks.

“The Americans do have a huge economic leverage over Pakistan. But the million-dollar question is whether it is willing to use that leverage on the Musharraf regime,” a senior South Block official said.

Armitage is scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan on May 6. For two days, he will discuss the situation there with President Hamid Karzai and other senior leaders.

He will then go to Islamabad on May 8. The next evening, he will be in Delhi. The day after, he will leave for Washington.

The question doing the rounds in Delhi is what more can Armitage offer other than what he did a year ago.

Last May, during his shuttle diplomacy between India and Pakistan, Armitage had assured Delhi that President Pervez Musharraf promised to “completely stop” infiltration across the Line of Control.

His assurance raised much hope in the Indian establishment, but the ground situation remained unchanged in the subsequent weeks.

“You do not pre-judge the talks even before they have begun,” a senior Indian diplomat said about Armitage’s coming visit. “But we are not sure what more Armitage has to offer that will create the required atmosphere and lead to the resumption of India-Pakistan talks.”

Assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca, disliked by many in India for her pro-Pakistan stand, will be accompanying Armitage. Some in Delhi believe her presence will not help the outcome of the visit to tilt in India’s favour.

“Why blame Rocca'” a senior South Block official asked. “I think she has become the most convenient scapegoat in the US administration now.”

According to him, if Washington was serious about ensuring an end to infiltration across the LoC by Pakistan, it would use its leverage — especially the huge economic one — with Musharraf.

Armitage’s main talks in India will be with foreign minister Yashwant Sinha. They will be meeting for the first time.

Yesterday, Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov spoke to Sinha and discussed the situation in South Asia after Vajpayee’s peace overtures to Pakistan.

Ivanov assured that Moscow continued to be with Delhi in its fight against terrorism and would support any move to bring peace to the region.

US ambassador Robert Blackwill, too, called on Sinha last afternoon.

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