16 September 2000
Washington DC: On the issue of Kashmir and Pakistan, echoing the phrasing of the Vision Statement, the joint statement ''reaffirms'' the two countries'' ''belief that tensions can only be resolved by the nations of South Asia and by peaceful means''. Interestingly, ''India reiterated its commitment to enhancing cooperation, peace and stability in the region'' even as ''both sides stressed the unacceptability of continued violence and bloodshed as a basis for a solution of the problems of the region.'' Asked afterwards by Indian reporters whether the Americans had placed emphasis on the need for India to return to a dialogue with Pakistan, Mr. Jaswant Singh said that he had not detected any ''such insistence'' and that the Prime Minister had pointed out to President Clinton that India had initiated such a dialogue earlier and that the conclusion was that the judgment of what would be an ''appropriate climate'' and of the timing was to be left to India, in regard to the resumption of such a bilateral dialogue. American officials for the moment appear to be endorsing this perception. At a post-talks briefing by senior administration officials, Mr. Bruce Riedel and Mr. Karl F.Inderfurth, in response to queries on this subject, Mr. Riedel reemphasised the position ''laid out by the President'' last March which reflected in the now famous ''Four Rs'' but carefully added the caveat to the call for a return to dialogue contained in these four ''R''s, that it should be ''at the appropriate time when the atmosphere is correct.'' It is evident that the Indian side is very happy with the institutionalisation of a dialogue with the United States on Afghanistan. With Mr. Jaswant Singh maintaining that this indicated a recognition that Afghanistan is ''an important issue for both the United States and India,'' the Indian official team is pointing out that this meant a sharper focus on the destabilising role of the Taliban, the consequences of their spread in the region, including the connection with Pakistan. At the briefing by the Clinton administration officials, Mr. Riedel said specifically that ''the Prime Minister in particular wanted to raise with the President, the situation in Afghanistan, India''s concerns about the nature of the Taliban Government and its connection with international terrorist organisations - concerns which of course we fully share and agree with.'' Mr. Riedel confirmed that the two leaders had decided to ''set up a framework for talks between our two countries to deal with our common concerns about Afghanistan.'' It was also decided to have a joint working group on U.N. peace- keeping, to be set up at the level of the Ministry of External Affairs and the US State Department, which is to share the experience acquired, particularly by India, in UN peacekeeping operations such as in Sierra Leone, where Indian troops have had a trying time. Indian officials regard this decision as an important indication of the increasing weight given to India by the United States on issues of global interest.