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World dials Delhi as guns boom on Loc

World dials Delhi as guns boom on Loc

Author: Jyoti Malhotra
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 25, 2002
URL: http://www.indian-express.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=3304

Introduction: Kofi Annan calls, this time he makes right noises, China joins chorus, Patten weighs in with Govt

Pressure continues to build on Pak President General Pervez Musharraf with the international community weighing in with New Delhi, one by one.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called up New Delhi and Islamabad in the last 24 hours and asking both leaderships to use restraint.

While Annan's call to Musharraf yesterday came about the same time Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar was seeking the UN's assistance to persuade India to come to the negotiating table, his conversation with External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, also yesterday, was said to be pointedly formal and correct.

At the best of times, New Delhi has not been happy with what it sees as Annan's enthusiasm for intervening between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. About a year ago, Delhi had politely refused Annan a visa to visit, following which he went to Islamabad.

Today, though, Annan specifically charged Pakistan with the responsibility to take action against terrorism and infiltration.

Besides Annan, US leaders Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell also took turns calling their counterparts in Delhi over the last 24 hours. Significantly, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan joined the chorus of international voices today, saying he hoped India and Pakistan would improve their relationship and return to being friends.

Meanwhile, visiting European Union's external affairs commissioner Chris Patten met both Singh and Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra, only to be told that India was reaching the ''breaking point'' of its patience.

The US, which has led the world's charge seeking to persuade India and Pakistan to back off from its eyeball-to eyeball confrontation, has been gradually pulling out a number of cards that seek to buy time from both capitals.

Thus, Powell told Jaswant Singh that he had been talking to General Musharraf telling him to control terrorism, and that given the volatility of hte situation it was crucial that such action was also seen to be taken. Singh, in turn, is said to have told Powell that New Delhi had been listening to such assurances for a very long time and that the sole criterion for India's restraint would be ''action'' on the ground.

Rice has been keeping in regular touch with her counterpart Mishra. She called him yesterday as she had done earlier in the week. It has now been confirmed that US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage will arrive in New Delhi on June 7 from Pakistan, with the exclusive purpose of breaking the logjam that could lead to the world's first ever nuclear exchange.

Meanwhile, even as British foreign secretary Jack Straw's visit to New Delhi stands confirmed for May 28-29, the government seems to have taken a conscious decision not to overly react to Straw's ''Kashmir is unfinished business'' statement to the BBC yesterday.

Patten's acceptance today of New Delhi's view that it would be a ''profound miscalculation'' for Pakistan to stop and start the terrorism tap and that this could be ''an adjunct to diplomacy'' seems to have won the day for those in the MEA in favour of allowing foreign visitors to come to Delhi.

Patten, who met both Mishra and Singh this morning, was told that India had ''exercised patience of biblical proportions in the face of grave provocation and terrorist violence from Pakistan.'' In turn, he accepted that Pakistan must first reduce infiltration and violence in order to reduce tension.

With tension spilling over into the summit between Presidents Bush and Putin in Moscow, the first glimmer of a breakthrough may perhaps be on the cards. India, it is being said, could offer negotiations on all subjects, especially Kashmir, in exchange for Pakistan promising to end terrorism in the same breath.

Still, it was Tang's call to Jaswant Singh that could really be described as the major element of surprise in the current situation. Observers pointed out that Beijing remains Pakistan's ''all-weather friend'' and for Tang to call Singh after his visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan last week seems significant.

Last week, Tang and Karzai had announced that they would jointly fight terrorism, including in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Today, even as Tang called for restraint in his inimitable way (''India and Pakistan should improve their relationship,'' he said) , he also applauded New Delhi's efforts in its fight against terrorism.

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