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India to talk tough with US peace mission

India to talk tough with US peace mission

Author: Indrani Bagchi
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: May 12, 2002

Christiana Rocca's peace mission can expect a hard landing here next week. India is preparing a strong message to the U5 that New Delhi will take a serious view of Islamabad's attempts to rachet up infiltration across the Line of Control (LOC). India will also tell the US official that Washington's efforts to 'defuse' the tension was not particularly constructive, because what is needed is for Pakistan to be asked to stop infiltration and cross-border terrorism, none of which has been forthcoming. Ms Rocca is being dispatched to the region early next week to prevent both countries from launching into what Washington believes to be a spiralling conflict. Yesterday, the US secretary of state, Colin Powell spoke to Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf and foreign minister Jaswant Singh on the issue. 'The Secretary called President Musharraf on Friday and Foreign Minister Singh yesterday to talk about India-Pakistan issues, tensions along the Line of Control and what we might be able to do, what they might do, what we might help them do to defuse those tensions.' said the US state department spokesperson Boucher.

According to high level western diplomatic sources, as infiltration figures have risen in the past few weeks, India has indicated that it might take military action across the LOC to take out terrorist camps which have once again sprouted in POK. Indian intelligence reports, corroborated by other agencies have reported a sharp rise in infiltration from across the LOC in March and April, signalling Pakistan's unwillingness to address the issue of cross-border terrorism. The fear of a military conflict, limited or otherwise, say those in the know, has been the trigger for Ms Rocca's visit.

The US will argue that India needs to be patient because Musharraf is in a weak position right now with jehadis planning attacks and US troops on Pakistani soil. India, according to high level sources, will instead make the 'unwilling' argument instead of the 'inability' one.

It was with this in mind that the US ambassador, Robert Blackwill met the home minister, Mr L.K. Advani, foreign minister, Jaswant Singh and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra this past week to guage Indian reaction and advise caution and restraint. As he has done in the past, Mr Blackwill also assured the Indian leadership that the US would ensure Pakistan delivers some of those on the list of 20.

This 'face-saving' formula is expected to be repeated by Rocca as well. Unfortunately, India is reluctant to take the US at its word on calls for restraint. There is a definite feeling here that the US is not doing enough to pressure Pakistan to get off the terrorism tiger. In fact, the message that Blackwill reportedly received from India was unequivocal: infiltration and cross-border terrorism was non-negotiable, even if India was prepared to be flexible on the list of 20.

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