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German salute to ‘statesman’ Atal

Berlin, May 28: German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder today expressed “deep respect and admiration” for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for trying to find a peaceful and “a constructive solution to the issues of cross-border terrorism and Kashmir”.

Schroeder said: “I expect an appropriate response in the same constructive spirit (from Pakistan).”

General Pervez Musharraf is scheduled to visit Germany towards the end of June and Schroeder was asked about the advice he might proffer to the Pakistan President on cross-border terrorism.

Reluctant to be drawn into such a discussion, Schroeder initially took shelter under what he claimed was an old Indian proverb: “Never talk about a guest until you have talked to him.”

However, he did not mince words in condemning terrorism and, in a clear message to Pakistan, said: “Any kind of civilian government is called upon to support anti-terrorist measures.”

Vajpayee appreciated Germany’s “understanding of the problems faced by us from cross-border terrorism”. He said Germany and India shared a common perspective against terrorism.

“We want that when General Musharraf visits Germany, Chancellor Schroeder should tell him that if he stops cross-border terrorism, then India is willing to talk to Pakistan on all issues, including that of Kashmir,” Vajpayee said.

The Prime Minister brushed aside a question from a German journalist about why India did not adhere to the UN resolutions on Kashmir which provide for determining the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Vajpayee argued that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had already given their verdict.

“India is a democracy. We have timely and regular elections and the people of Jammu and Kashmir also participate in them. Some time ago, there was an election in Jammu and Kashmir which Pakistan tried to disrupt by killing some candidates and through intimidation. But the people of Jammu and Kashmir turned out in large numbers to vote. A decision has been taken through the elections and no other decision needs to be taken.”

Recounting Vajpayee’s meeting with Schroeder, external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said the Chancellor not only praised the “farsightedness and wisdom” of the Prime Minister but also remarked that his third effort at peace “reflects a fine profile of a statesman”.

Schroeder, he said, hoped that this time Vajpayee’s effort would lead to a rapprochement.

Vajpayee and Schroeder showed “a complete understanding between the two sides on bilateral as well as regional and global issues”, he added.

Schroeder told reporters: “Excellent Indo-German relations are already in place. There are no problems which need to be discussed. Our focus was on strengthening economic and technical cooperation further.”

Vajpayee proposed an annual summit with the German Chancellor and invited Schroeder to visit India next year, an invitation that was immediately accepted.

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