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Advani talks tough with Armitage

New Delhi, May 10: .K. Advani today made it clear to US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage that while India is ready to extend a hand of friendship to Pakistan, there has been no evidence yet of any shift in Islamabad’s policy of encouraging cross-border terror.

The deputy Prime Minister also said Washington had enough clout to persuade Islamabad to destroy the “infrastructure” it had built to support its policy of terrorism against India.

In a 40-minute meeting with Armitage in his North Block office this afternoon, Advani briefed Armitage in detail on the ground situation in Kashmir. They discussed Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s peace overtures to Pakistan as well as India’s growing ties with the US.

Armitage made it clear there was no dilution in America’s stand on terrorism: violence was not the answer however just the cause.

“After a very careful review of our understanding of incidents and deaths surrounding cross-border violence, it is a terrible thing when we reduce this to statistics... A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist,” he said after back to back meetings with Indian leaders. He spoke at an airport news conference just before he flew out of Delhi.

Armitage also handed over a letter from US Vice-President Dick Cheney, formally inviting Advani to the US. Although Advani was scheduled to go to Washington this summer, the invite is indication that the US is keen on getting to know him, regarded a hardliner on Pakistan.

US leaders are aware of the importance of Advani in formulating policy. They know Vajpayee will not go against his advice, therefore, it was essential to get him to co-operate.

The Indian leaders indicated there were no differences among senior ministers over the peace plans with Pakistan. “We made it clear there was no hawk or dove among us. The Cabinet as a whole is for peace, provided Pakistan gives clear signals it is willing to back up its words with action,” a senior official said.

Armitage, who was accompanied by ambassador to India Robert Blackwill, refused to speak to the media after the meeting. But home ministry officials were very pleased. “It (the meeting) was excellent,” Union home secretary . Gopalswami said.

Others who attended were foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal and joint secretary, Americas, Jayant Prasad.

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