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Qazi's goodbye meet turns debating match

Qazi's goodbye meet turns debating match

Author: HT Correspondent
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: May 23, 2002

It was meant to be a polite good-bye meeting, but degenerated into a debate on who is to blame for the Indo-Pak war of nerves. The occasion: departing Pakistani High Commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi's courtesy call on Indian Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer on Wednesday afternoon.

Iyer regretted the circumstances under which the meeting was being held but seized the opportunity to assert that India's tolerance towards terrorism sponsored by Pakistan had only encouraged more terrorism.

Pakistan, she said, should realise that neither the international community nor its own people believed its Government's denials about promoting terrorism.

She said India took exception to the Qazi's oft-repeated remark in his media interviews that "India was deliberately ratcheting up tension". The foreign secretary stressed that since December 13 - a "watershed" for Indian sentiments - New Delhi had been taking measured and gradual steps.

The Pakistani envoy, virtually expelled following the May 14 Kaluchak massacre, argued on his part that the present dangerous situation was the outcome of India's "policy of coercion and intimidation instead of a policy of de-escalation and dialogue towards Pakistan".

Incidentally, the Pak version of what transpired at the meeting, came in the form of a press release after the Indian TV channels played up the official Indian account of the so-called "courtesy call".

Qazi would be leaving India on Saturday via the Wagah border.

Iyer told her visitor that Pakistan's current approach based on terrorism and violence was "unacceptable".

She pointed out in this regard to the several initiatives taken by India to put bilateral relationship on a path that would lead to peace. She referred to the Structured Dialogue Process, the Lahore bus trip and the Agra Summit.

Qazi responded by stating that India should avoid the "propensity to make immediate and unfounded allegations against Pakistan whenever an incident occurred". He urged the Indian side to "respond positively to Pakistan's initiatives to de-escalate tension created by deployment of troops by India.

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