| AB Vajpayee with George W. Bush at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York on Wednesday. (AFP)
New York, Sept. 24: In a major effort to keep alive the nascent Indian peace initiative with Pakistan, US President George W. Bush today firmly told his Pakistani counterpart, General Pervez Musharraf, that infiltration of terrorists into India from territories controlled by Pakistan has to stop.
It is understood that Bush shared this privileged information about his advice to Musharraf with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee here today when Vajpayee told the US President that cross-border terrorism into India was continuing.
The Bush-Vajpayee exchange about cross-border terrorism was set against the background of praise by the US President for the Prime Minister as a “man of peace” for his recent effort to restart a dialogue with Pakistan.
The Bush administration, according to American sources, is extremely concerned that Vajpayee’s peace initiative may become a non-starter in the light of sharp exchanges here between India and Pakistan this week.
The administration’s South Asian antenna has also been raised following Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri’s decision a few days ago to drop a planned visit to India after Delhi advised him to send the invitation to Vajpayee for a South Asian summit through diplomatic channels instead of hand-delivering it.
One hour after Bush told Musharraf to end cross-border terrorism, the General told the UN General Assembly that Pakistan was ready “to encourage a general cessation of violence within Kashmir, involving reciprocal obligations and restraints on Indian forces and the Kashmir freedom movement”.
According to sources at the General Assembly, this paragraph was an afterthought in Musharraf’s speech and was added after the General’s meeting with Bush. As a result, some diplomats pointed out that the hastily-added paragraph contradicted an assertion by Musharraf earlier in the speech that the “Kashmiri struggle is indigenous”.
“If the Kashmiri struggle is, indeed, indigenous, how can Musharraf facilitate what he calls a general cessation of violence within Kashmir'” asked a Western diplomat who once served in Delhi.
The key word used by Musharraf is “reciprocal obligations”, pointed out another diplomat. That means Musharraf can still turn off the tap of violence in Kashmir, whatever he may have said earlier.
The Bush-Vajpayee meeting, over a lunch hosted by the President, lasted just over an hour.
Indian officials described it as an “exceptional gesture” from Bush since this was the only lunch hosted by the President during his two-day stay here for the General Assembly.
Represented on the US side during the working lunch was a virtual “who’s who” in the US administration and included secretary of state Colin Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House chief of staff Andrew Card, US ambassador to the UN John Negroponte and former US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill.
Indian officials, who described the meeting as “friendly, cordial and substantive”, said the discussions were wideranging and included Iraq, China, Iran, West Asia and Afghanistan.
Considerable time was devoted to discussing the “trinity of issues” in bilateral relations — peaceful cooperation in nuclear energy, high technology exports, including dual-use military civilian equipment, by the US to India, and bilateral collaboration in space.