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'Friends Should Keep Their Pledges'

MEA spokesperson feels the need to explain and interpret Colin Powell's remarks. Full text of the briefing of July 27.

I am here to brief you on the meeting between External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha and Secretary of State Colin Powell. The meeting took place this evening. There was a one-to-one meeting which lasted about one hour, followed by delegation level talks which also lasted roughly an hour. As you would see we were able to discuss a whole gamut of issues.  It was a very positive conversation; a very meaningful dialogue. Both Ministers were agreed on this. 

The concentration was on bilateral issues.  As you may recall, both President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee have decided to take the relationship to a new level and provide a new dynamism to qualitatively transform the relationship. And both countries, as was apparent from the discussions held this evening, would like to translate into concrete action these wishes of their leaders. Both Ministers felt that there were areas where much had been achieved, and others in which they must work harder. They wanted to intensify exchanges at the highest level as well as, as I mentioned earlier, to work on concrete programmes of action.

Secretary Powell expressed his sorrow at the death of our Vice President and conveyed his sincere condolences to the family of Shri Krishan Kant and to the Government and the people of India on this tragic loss. During the discussions with the External Affairs Minister Secretary Powell said that it was a pleasure to be back in New Delhi, to be able to meet Shri Yashwant Sinha, and he said that he looked forward to working with the EAM and to speaking with him on a regular basis. 

Secretary Powell said that the US-India relationship is a good, strong, improving relationship and it was not a zero sum game defined by US relations with any other country in our region. He said he was impressed by the depth of the agenda for bilateral interaction. Military-to-military cooperation, as you know, has developed well in recent months. Both Ministers felt that the other elements which are also the focus of bilateral interaction should acquire further substance and momentum. 

When I say other areas what was referred to were energy, economic cooperation, trade, science and technology, civilian space cooperation.  Both sides also expressed their keen interest and desire to deepen the bilateral dialogue on regional issues and also to intensify high-level exchanges.

They were also agreed that the strategic dialogue between the two countries should be deepened further. They wish to broaden the scope of engagement and thereby intensify mutual trust.  There was also interest expressed in involving private sector in both countries more closely in economic interaction and business level exchanges.

The situation in Afghanistan was discussed. Satisfaction was expressed about the steps taken over the last seven to eight months on strengthening the fabric of security and stability in Afghanistan. Both Ministers were agreed that rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan should be speeded up, should be intensified further. May I add also that concern was expressed about the whereabouts of hundreds , if not thousands, of Al Qaeda elements still running lose in the region. On Afghanistan we were also able to brief Secretary Powell about the extensive efforts made by India in terms of assistance for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan.

On the India-Pakistan situation, it was emphasized by Secretary Powell that the United States does not see the US-India relationship within the framework of India-Pakistan relations. He was appreciative of our moving towards holding of free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir and emphasized that these elections should take place without interruption or violence.  There was understanding and convergence of views between the two sides on the need to fight terrorism in a global manner.

Our concerns about the lack of action by Pakistan to fulfill the pledges made by President General Musharraf to Deputy Secretary Armitage were stressed. Our Minister referred to the fact that Pakistan’s private commitments were entirely contradicted by its public pronouncements in this regard. It was also pointed out that India had exercised a great deal of restraint and had not indulged in provocative action or aggressive talk despite this attitude of Pakistan.

We referred to the fact that violence in Jammu and Kashmir has only come down marginally and Pakistan’s actions are violative of UN Security Council Resolution 1373. Clearly, Pakistan has to do more if tensions in the region were to be reduced and the possibility of resumption of dialogue were to be realized. On his part Secretary Powell said that the United States was used to having its "friends keeping their pledges." 

Question: Did Secretary Powell think Pakistan has kept its pledges?

Answer Obviously when he referred to the fact that ‘friends should keep their pledges’ there was a clear expression of opinion there that pledges once made, promises once made, must be kept. There cannot be any going back on them.

Question:

Answer I am giving you an account of what happened during the discussions. I am not going into further details.  Secretary Powell will be addressing a press conference tomorrow morning on his meetings here. So, I presume that many of you will be going to that press conference.

Question: Did Secretary Powell clearly say that Pakistan needs to do more?

Answer I have told you about what was conveyed. Obviously there is recognition on the part not only of the United States but every responsible country in the international community that the pledge made to stop terrorism, cross-border terrorism permanently, to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, to end infiltration is a pledge that must be honoured. We cannot play games of diplomatic bluff on this.

Question: Deputy Prime Minister Advani demanded that Pakistan should be declared a terrorist State.  Did this issue come up for discussion?

Answer This issue did not come up for discussion.

Question: Did Secretary Powell seek further de-escalatory measures from India?

Answer No. I think there was a very very free and constructive exchange of views.  We conveyed to the United States Government during the discussions held this evening where we stood on these issues. In fact, our External Affairs Minister went on record even before the talks when he was asked a question by a correspondent of The Washington Post, that "if necessary conditions for talks are created, we will hold talks. But we do not think such conditions exist at present."

Question: You stressed that today’s talks were on bilateral issues.  I want to ask you specifically pertaining to Pakistan, whether Secretary Powell brought any specific measures that might be new?

Answer Well, Secretary Powell is going to Islamabad tomorrow. I think I wouldn’t like to focus on what he may convey to the Pakistani authorities during that visit.  That is really a subject of action by the United States.  I don’t want to prejudge what may be said or what may be conveyed. But suffice it to say I think there is a clear recognition of the need for Pakistan to deliver on its pledges and the fact that promises once made are promises that must be kept.

Question: Are you briefing us on the one-to-one talks?

Answer I am briefing you on the entire range of discussions held this evening.

Question: Secretary Powell has said that infiltration across the Line of Control has gone down but violence is still continuing. What do you have to say about that?

Answer Definitely, our concerns about what we monitor along the Line of Control in terms of communication intercepts, in terms of infiltration attempts, which happen, may I add, under the full protection or the full power offered and given by Pakistani army stationed along the Line of Control, was conveyed to the American side.

Question:

Answer I think I would be on the mark if I said that this is a transforming relationship. It is a relationship that is acquiring greater substance and meaning even as we speak.

Question: Secretary Powell also has said …..

Answer The focus was on the situation in the region.  Our concerns about continuing terrorism directed against India, directed against the Indian State, directed against the Indian people. I think those concerns were conveyed very powerfully and very much in detail to Secretary Powell and his delegation.

Question: Did the issue of verification of infiltration across the Line of Control come up for discussion? Also, did India raise the proposal of joint patrolling along the Line of Control?

Answer No, the issue didn’t come up.

Question: Till yesterday a meeting with Prime Minister was not on the schedule of Secretary Powell. Now, he is going to meet the Prime Minister tomorrow. What exactly has happened in the last 24 hours?

Answer He is meeting the Prime Minister tomorrow.  The meeting will take place at 10:45. We were able to work out the schedule for that meeting late last evening.  That’s as plain and simple as it gets.

Question: You have mentioned that there are some areas where India and America need to work harder. What are those areas?

Answer   Obviously these details will be worked out at the official level. There are various institutional frameworks available for discussion between India and the United States and that is what I meant when I said yesterday that the relationship has a texture, has a granularity to it which provides for a very high resolution picture today which was not available a few years ago.  So, I mentioned energy, I mentioned economics, economic cooperation I mentioned, trade, I mentioned science and technology as well as scientific and technological exchanges, as well as civilian space cooperation.  These were some of the areas.

Question:

Answer The issue, as I understand, did not figure. I don’t have any further details on what is discussed. Let me stress the fact that it was a very positive discussion. The chemistry between the two Ministers was excellent. I think they have established a very good personal rapport today.

Question: Secretary Powell said that it is difficult to measure infiltration across the Line of Control in precise terms. What are your comments on that?

Answer No, I think, as far as the way I understand it is that, what Secretary Powell could have meant when he said that, of course I am not an interpreter of his statements- I must say that first before I go on with what I have to convey- I mean there are difficult challenges in terms of intelligence gathering in our region, in terms of information consolidation on such subjects. That is I think a fair statement.  We are not denying that.  But I think, since we are on the ground, since we monitor infiltration very closely, our forces along the Line of Control are in a position to monitor this on a day-to-day basis, so by that definition the assessments made by India certainly should be seen as having credence, as having a certain authority precisely because we are on the ground there.

Question: Don’t you think he is questioning our assessment?

Answer No, I don’t think he questioned our assessment. Not at all.

Question: Did the issue of Kashmir figure in the discussion?

Answer I told you about the fact that the elections in Jammu and Kashmir were discussed.  Our Minister of State Mr. Omar Abdullah was also present at the delegation level talks. He is uniquely well-positioned to talk about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and he referred to the fact that in the run up to the elections, in the run up to preparations for free and fair elections, terrorist elements, elements that have an anti-Indian, anti-Jammu and Kashmir agenda, have consistently tried to propagate their violent and evil aims.  We have had political workers of the National Conference being murdered everyday. Our Minister of State referred to the fact that party workers who are committed to the ideals of our democracy and to the ideals of democratic functioning and to the holding of free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir are being murdered by terrorist groups and elements. I think this point was very well made by the Minister of State. I think it registered very well with Secretary Powell.

Question: Don’t you think the US has failed to keep its friends, keep its pledges and deliver on the promises? Do you think that today’s meeting would make any difference?

Answer Well, I would prefer to say that given the tenor and given the chemistry between the two Ministers today and the positive nature of the discussion, the very constructive exchange of views that we saw happening, I think our concerns, our very legitimate views on the situation have been registered with the American side and the Secretary Powell has been able to get a first hand assessment of where India stands on these issues.  I think the point you mentioned included has been made to the Americans.

Question: Can you share with us specifically the exact details of the discussion?

Answer I am sorry, I cannot go into discussions which are confidential. I think I have been fairly detailed and fairly comprehensive in what I have told you, and I think we should now move on to Secretary Powell’s press conference tomorrow where you can ask the rest of your questions.

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