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Bush buffer against blasts

Washington, June 11: The Bush administration will ensure that there are no Pakistan-sponsored terrorist actions against India on the scale of the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament.

But the Americans may be helpless in altogether stopping the low-intensity war against India from across the border.

Translated into plain language, this is the crux of the message conveyed to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani by US president George W. Bush at their meeting here on Monday.

Advani said at a press conference yesterday, before winding up his three-day visit to Washington, that Bush “would be speaking to President (Pervez) Musharraf about creating a climate in which this initiative (for peace taken by India) could succeed”. Musharraf is visiting the US in the last week of this month.

The assurance from the US President followed Advani’s assertion that an attack like the one on Parliament would have serious consequences for India-Pakistan relations.

Bush recognised the tightrope which India has to walk with Pakistan on account of cross-border terrorism when he told Advani that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee “had gambled for peace and provided political space for resolving differences, without foregoing the concern for (India’s) security”.

Bush said Vajpayee “deserves great credit for it”. Therefore, what Bush meant when he told Advani about leaning on Musharraf for “creating a climate” for peace, was that terrorist acts which had the potential to derail peace would not be tolerated by Washington.

American sources have been saying in off-the-record briefings for some time that having failed to win Washington’s endorsement for his idea of distinguishing between bad terrorists (in Afghanistan) and good terrorists (in Kashmir), Musharraf has been pleading with the US that he needs room for some manoeuvre with India in order to talk peace or even to remain in power.

Such manoeuvre is being interpreted here as his ability to keep the low intensity conflict going in Kashmir, albeit in a very small way, so that Musharraf can tell his domestic constituency that he has not given up on the Kashmir issue.

Advani appeared to recognise this — but not accept it — at his press conference. He was asked why the US was insisting on a complete halt to terrorism by Palestinians before peace talks while not doing so in the case of Pakistan. He pointedly remarked that “every government has its foreign policy interests to safeguard”.

Advani’s talks in Washington also appear to have led to a new interpretation of the long-standing Indian policy of not negotiating with Pakistan as long as it sponsored cross-border terrorism.

The deputy Prime Minister pointed out at his press conference there was no dichotomy between that position and Vajpayee’s latest peace moves.

Advani pointed out that Vajpayee’s bus journey to Lahore and his invitation to Musharraf to visit Agra were extended while terrorism was being exported by Pakistan to India. This time, he had stressed that there could be progress at the talks only if the bilateral climate was right.

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