Rocca''s mission turns impossible
14 May 2002
New Delhi: Tuesday morning''s terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir provided India with a legitimate ground to bounce off platitudes of ''restraint'' vis-a-vis Pakistan that Western powers, particularly the United States, have been directing at New Delhi in the past few weeks. The occasion came in the form of US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca''s visit to India, a visit that was being viewed as Washington''s ''peace mission'' to a ''highly volatile'' region. On a day Ms Rocca was holding consultations with officials here, armed with the obvious message from Washington on the need for India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, India suggested the Jammu attack may just be the last straw to terminate its patience with Pakistan. Spewing fire, the Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah said, ''Events like this (the Jammu attack) will ensure that restraint (by India) will not last.'' The Minister even suggested that Tuesday''s terrorist strike may turn out to be a flashpoint in India-Pakistan relations, asserting that it would be ''unfair'' to expect only India to exercise restraint while Pakistan has nothing to show in this regard. Mr Abdullah also advised Ms Rocca to convince the Pakistani leadership during her talks on Wednesday on the need for Islamabad to show restraint. ''The policy of restraint is a two-way street,'' he warned. Briefing newspersons on Ms Rocca''s visit to the Capital, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said New Delhi had conveyed to the visiting American official that, ''We would like to see peace, stability and reduction of tension (in the region) but the key to that has to be turned by Pakistan.'' Frequent statements from the United States in the past few weeks have been marked by concern over a possible military face-off between India and Pakistan, Washington urging the two countries to resolve the ''high- tension'' situation at the Indo-Pak border since the December 13 attack on Parliament. Declining comment on whether those concerns were reiterated by Ms Rocca here, Ms Rao said she was ''not aware of any messages being conveyed,'' adding that, ''the US Administration was fully aware that India had always advocated peace and stability in the region.'' Post-December 13, she said, the US was aware and cognisant of India''s concerns. On Ms Rocca''s response to India''s concerns, Ms Rao said, the US understands the ''logic and rationale that inform those concerns.'' While Washington has openly expressed worries over the lack of dialogue between India and Pakistan, New Delhi seems in no mood to relent, a view that was conveyed unequivocally to the visiting US official. ''Unless Pakistan acts there can be no change,'' Ms Rao asserted, emphasising that there was complete lack of response from Pakistan on demands made by India. Apart from the demand for Pakistan to stop crossborder terrorism, India is also awaiting action on the list of 20 terrorists handed to Pakistan last year. In such a situation, the spokesperson said, she did not see any reduction of tension: ''It is for Pakistan to take action to reduce tension.'' Tuesday''s attack, bringing back memories of the Chattisinghpora massacre of 35 Sikhs that coincided with then US President Bill Clinton''s visit in March 2000, has lent strength to New Delhi''s contention that sponsors of crossborder terror cannot be viable dialogue partners. ''Our concerns were fully articulated (to Ms Rocca),'' Ms Rao said. She however reserved comment on the ''possibility of pattern'' in terrorist attacks deliberately planned to coincide with visits from Washington. On her part, Ms Rocca condemned the terrorist attacks on the Jammu killings, admitting that, ''It is this type of barbaric terrorism that the international war on terrorism is determined to stop.'' Interestingly, Ms Rocca''s scheduled meetings with Defence Minister George Fernandes and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra did not materialise. Her meetings were largely confined to her counterparts in the MEA and a 30-minute call on External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh. Joint Secretary (Americas) Jayant Prasad, Joint Secretary (Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) Arun Singh, Special Envoy to Afghanistan SK Lamba and Foreign Secretary designate Kanwal Sibal were the officials Ms Rocca met. While for the moment India has ruled out any further escalation of tension with Pakistan in view of the J&K Assembly elections scheduled for September, it has also sought to convey to the international community that its patience with Pakistan is not limitless.