New York, Sept. 26: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is unlikely to travel to Islamabad for the South Asian summit in January if the experience in New York in Indo-Pak amity is any guide.
India and Pakistan tore into each other at the General Assembly yesterday after their respective leaders attacked one another in their annual speeches to the UN body marking a new low in India-Pakistan ties.
Vajpayee said at a press conference shortly before leaving for home that he regretted what happened in New York. “But I do not think the peace initiative is dead.”
In the same breath, he categorically said there were no plans for any bilateral talks with the Pakistani leadership during his visit to Islamabad, that is, assuming he does go to Pakistan.
“The atmosphere is not conducive to talks. There is no point in having a dialogue,” the Prime Minister said.
Members of his delegation explained that there was a basic divergence between New Delhi and Islamabad on what was meant by a resumption of dialogue.
Pakistan wants summit-level talks. India’s view is that any resumption of dialogue should be step by step, starting at the lower levels and graduating up. They alleged in background briefings that Pakistan wants summit talks to exploit the atmospherics for Musharraf’s dubious political ends, as happened in Agra.
India, on the other hand, feels that a bottom-to-top approach will be productive.
An official pointed out that the Prime Minister had not yet agreed to go to Islamabad. All that has happened at the recent Saarc foreign secretaries’ meeting is that they agreed on dates for the next South Asian summit.
Yesterday, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Munir Akram, described India as the “mother of terrorism” and said the world’s first suicide bombers had come from training camps for Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatists in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh run by the Indian army and India’s external spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, many years ago.
Exercising his right to reply to references to Pakistan in Vajpayee’s UN address yesterday, Akram launched an inflammatory attack on the BJP, describing the party as fascist, whose member had killed Gandhiji.
He described riots in Gujarat last year as a “state-managed massacre of 2,000 Muslims” and abused Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, somewhat to the bewilderment of General Assembly delegations, most of whom had no idea who Thackeray was.
India lost no time in responding. Exercising its right to reply to Akram’s reply to Vajpayee, Indian delegate Harsh V. Shringla accused Islamabad of “creating political fiction about its anti-terrorist credentials”.
Shringla was as merciless as Akram in his repartee. He said the contents of Akram’s reply were “not surprising for a country whose history and policies have been rooted in political fiction”.
The Indian delegation’s drafting skills matched Pakistan’s venom.
“Pakistan’s combat against international terrorism is based on 1 per cent intentions and 99 per cent pretensions. The ratio needs to be reversed.”
Vajpayee was asked by a correspondent about Akram’s description of India as the “mother of terrorism”.
“Do I have to answer that'” He regretted the level at which bilateral exchanges were taking place and added: “I took the initiative for peace three times and now Pakistan talks of peace!”
He dismissed suggestions from correspondents that George W. Bush had asked India to start talks with Pakistan during his luncheon meeting with the US President here two days ago.
“The US President has been talking of a dialogue for long. My response was that terrorism across the border is increasing. There are training camps in Pakistan where terrorists are being trained. Now the Americans have acknowledged it too.”