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US mission onus on Advani

New Delhi, June 5: India is relying on deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who will be in Washington ahead of President Pervez Musharraf, to forcefully put across to the American administration Pakistan’s fickle promises to stop aiding militants in Kashmir.

The deputy Prime Minister will begin a 10-day tour of the US and UK on June 7. Musharraf is expected in the US and Britain later in the month. Officials here are hoping that Advani will be able to get India’s views through to the US administration successfully, ahead of Musharraf.

“His focus will be on Pakistan and the continuing help General Musharraf’s regime provides to terrorists,” said an Advani aide. “We have enough evidence available to establish the point that Pakistan is sponsoring infiltration along the Line of Control in Kashmir as well as in other cities and towns in India.”

Delhi is aware that Musharraf can be articulate and persuasive in putting across his views to the George W. Bush administration. It is also known that the US needs Pakistani cooperation at the moment and it cannot afford to drive Musharraf to the wall.

Indian officials hope that Advani will be able to put across Delhi’s arguments in a forthright manner and give details of the ground situation in Kashmir. “We will argue that in the one-and-a-half years since Musharraf joined the US-led coalition against terror, there has been no visible impact on the ground to show any change in its policy vis-à-vis India,” an official said.

Every time Musharraf was under pressure, he spoke about his commitment to peace and promised to crack down on militants but never followed that up with action.

When Advani was in Washington in January 2002, it was about a month after the terrorist strike on Parliament. Bush had then expressed his outrage against the attack. “I am in as much rage as you,” he said, and promised to take up the issue of militancy with Pakistan.

Secretary of state Colin Powell had assured Advani that some major announcement would be coming from the Pakistan President. On January 12, in a long and impassioned televised address to his country, Musharraf promised to crack down on terrorism and fundamentalism.

But from India’s point of view, nothing tangible came off it.

“Our idea is to keep hammering these facts to the Bush administration. We are willing to try the third time round for peace with our neighbour. Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee has already extended the hand of friendship but our public will not accept another failure. Pakistan needs to take some action before we start serious negotiations,” said an official.

This is the perception being put across to the international community by both Vajpayee and Advani. The deputy Prime Minister will again stress the point that the government cannot afford to take the peace process forward without a visible shift in Pakistan’s position.

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