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Advani harps on America’s Pak clout

New Delhi, May 11: Deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani has made it clear to US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage that Pakistan has not done enough to stop cross-border terrorism and the US had much more leverage over Islamabad than it claimed.

Advani had refused comment after his meeting with Armitage yesterday, but his office today clearly spelt out the details of the conversation.

Hoping to put Pakistan under pressure, Advani told Armitage that the US had enormous leverage over President Pervez Musharraf and must persuade Pakistan to stop violence and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

For an India-Pakistan dialogue to begin, terrorism must stop, was the Indian argument. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani, Yashwant Sinha as well as leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi had told Armitage in one voice that while India was willing to make fresh peace overtures to Pakistan, there had to be an adequate response from the other side.

In fact, even when Vajpayee spoke of extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan at a Srinagar rally, he had put in the caveat that “the bloodbath must first stop”. Later that evening, the Prime Minister had clarified the point, while his aides insisted that Vajpayee had not spoken of unconditional talks.

Advani is believed to have told Armitage that Pakistan cannot disregard what the US says as it is so dependent on it. “There is no way Pakistan would not accept US diktats as it had done in the case of fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan,” officials quoted Advani as saying.

US clout was evident in the handing over of 500 al Qaida men to Washington, home ministry officials pointed out. In contrast, Pakistan has not taken any action on India’s list of 20 militants and criminals, sources said.

Much of the Indian rhetoric is to convince Washington to get Islamabad to take concrete action to bring down the level of violence in Kashmir. It also aims to make it plain to Washington that there could be forward movement only if there was a suitable change in the ground situation.

India has laid out the step by step roadmap for peace with Pakistan. “Nothing would happen in a hurry, we have learnt from our past mistakes,” an official explained. During his talks with Armitage, Advani also referred to Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali’s statement that besides forging other links, the two nations should start playing hockey.

Advani is said to have asked Armitage what happens if a massacre takes place when a hockey match is going on between the two nations, the sources said. The deputy Prime Minister pointed out to the US visitor that his government could not go against public opinion in a democracy like India. People would not forgive the political leadership if talks were to begin without an end to cross-border violence.

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