India to hold `frank discussion'

NEW DELHI JULY 26. India will convey to the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, that the real test of Pakistan's commitment to end cross-border terrorism will be seen in the run-up to the elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Highly-placed sources told The Hindu that India's concerns about continuing terrorist actions and infiltration from across the Line of Control would be conveyed in a direct manner to Gen. Powell, who arrives in New Delhi tomorrow evening.

In what promises to be a "frank discussion'', India will also tell Gen. Powell that the commitment to end cross-border terrorism was given by Pakistan to the U.S. and its allies and they must hold the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, accountable on the issue. The sources said the same message was conveyed to the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, during his visit last week.

For its part, India had its own assessment of the ground-level situation in Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi would be guided by its own information. During his visit, Gen. Powell will hold talks with the External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, tomorrow evening — this will be his first meeting with the new Ministers.

There will be an element of "probing'' involved in Gen. Powell's visit since Mr. Sinha's predecessor as External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, had been plugging an American line in Government.

Mr. Sinha — the new man at the helm of the Indian foreign policy — is not known to the Americans and both Foreign Ministers will use the occasion to get to know each other.

On Sunday morning, Gen. Powell will address a press conference (there will be no joint press conference as was the case in the past) before meeting the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Brajesh Mishra, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, L.K. Advani.

There are also concerns in diplomatic quarters about the frank comments made by the new Foreign Secretary, Kanwal Sibal, at a CII function on July 8 on Indo-U.S. relations.

While Mr. Sibal did not offer any "definitive discourse'' on Indo-U.S. relations, his comments have generated considerable interest. "It is a fact, that in the past and to some extent even today, the policies of the U.S., even if they have not been directed against the interest of India, have tended to adversely affect the interest of India.''

On Jammu and Kashmir, he said the issue had a long history and the issue had been complicated in large measure by the policies pursued by some Western nations, in particular Britain and the U.S.

On the all-crucial concern of India — terrorism — Mr. Sibal had this to say: "Interestingly, September 11 is all about combating international terrorism. If one were to logically go down this road together, that is India and the U.S., then it is very clear what our expectations are and what the U.S. must do. They can not separate one element of terrorism from another and say that they would deal firstly, and on a priority basis, and forcefully, with only that segment of international terrorism which potentially threatens their security...''

Interestingly, Mr. Sinha has kept a low profile till date and has not interacted with the press.

In such a scenario, the comments made by Mr. Sibal acquire added importance.

In response to questions, the Foreign Office spokesperson told presspersons this evening that the "whole gamut'' of issues between India and the U.S. would come up for discussion with Mr. Powell.

She said opinions, views and perspectives need not coincide between countries. India, for instance, disagreed with the U.S. statements that Pakistan was a "stalwart ally'' in the war against terrorism.

She added that Mr. Powell had a full schedule of meetings on Saturday evening and Sunday morning before leaving for Islamabad and nothing should be read into the fact that he would not be calling on the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee.

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