New York, Sept. 23: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have taken an initiative to improve relations with Pakistan, but he is making clear in New York that there will not be an iota of compromise on the core issue of terrorism that bedevils relations between the two countries.
Barely a week after New Delhi nixed a bid by Islamabad to take control of the process of bilateral talks with India by sending its foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri to New Delhi, ostensibly to deliver an invitation for a South Asian summit, Vajpayee spent yesterday firming up Indian defences against Pakistan’s international machinations.
At his first wholly American event since arriving here, Vajpayee launched a thinly veiled initiative to isolate Pakistan within the US-led coalition against terrorism and discredit Islamabad for its record on democracy.
Addressing the Asia Society, Vajpayee called upon democracies to act in cohesion against the threat of terrorism and treat a threat against one democracy as a threat against all.
In doing so, Vajpayee implied that democratic governments should agree among themselves to invoke what amounts to Article 5 of Nato’s charter.
This article, invoked for the first time after September 11, asserts that “an armed attack against one or more” Nato member “shall be considered an attack against them all” allowing “each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence”, to take action, “including the use of armed force”.
If this initiative is taken to its logical conclusion, it would be an effective counter to Pakistan’s much-touted anti-terrorist military alliance with the US. It also broadens considerably the potential of India’s emerging strategic partnerships and defence co-operation with major Western powers, including the US.
On the same day, Vajpayee met Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo. The logic behind the Prime Minister’s meeting with Obasanjo was that Nigeria would shortly host the next Commonwealth summit, where Pakistan’s continuing suspension from the Commonwealth for violating democracy would be an issue.
External affairs minister Yashwant Sinha met Blas Ople, his counterpart from the Philippines.
The Philippines will become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council on January 1 and India is banking on Manila’s support, especially since Pakistan’s two-year council membership will continue till the end of 2004.
But his most important meeting will be later today with Hoshyar al Zebari, a member of Iraq’s governing council in charge of foreign affairs.
While all this was going on, it was left to foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal to launch a broadside against General Pervez Musharraf.
Sibal dismissed Musharraf’s diatribes against India as “an annual Kashmir itch that Pakistan suffers from” at the time of the UN General Assembly.
He advised Pakistani leaders to “do some fasting” before “their annual pilgrimage to the UN” to try to rake up Kashmir.
Musharraf complained here yesterday that his efforts to start a dialogue with India had produced “zero return from the Indian side”.
Sibal responded: “If there has been zero return, it is because there has been zero investment by Pakistan.”
Islamabad, he said, had “exhausted all its capital in promoting terrorism that they should be getting are negative returns...If they were to really invest in peace by abjuring terrorism they will get the return they expect by way of a dialogue”.