Advani Gets Red Carpet But No Assurance

WASHINGTON DC: Despite much bonhomie, visiting home minister L K Advani failed to get any assurance from US secretary of state Colin Powell of a US crackdown on Pakistan’s support for terrorism. It appears the US wants to give President Musharraf plenty of rope to steer his country away from Islamic fundamentalism.

At the same time, the US side agreed that the two countries faced a common foe in terrorism, that there could be no distinction between good terrorists and bad ones. Mr Advani said Pakistan’s supposed crackdown on terrorist groups was not convincing, that it had not shown sincerity in wanting to end cross border terrorism.

Pakistan needed to do four things, he said. First, hand over 20 terrorists whose names, along with copious evidence, had been handed over. Second, terminate all training camps, facilities, arms supply and funding for terrorist groups on Pakistani soil. Third, stop infiltration of men and arms into Kashmir. Fourth, make a categorical and unambiguous renunciation of terrorism in all forms.

Mr Powell will visit the subcontinent next week. His aim is to reduce tensions and the risk of a Indo-Pak war, rather than lower the boom on Pakistan. He said he hoped to make some contribution toward resolution of issues in South Asia.

The US views Pakistan as an ally against al Qaeda and other terrorists. However, Mr Advani told Mr Powell that Pakistan could not have double standards, and claim to oppose terrorism to its west, while supporting terrorism to its east.

This is the first time an Indian home minister has paid an official visit to the US, and it shows how the traditional distinction between internal and external security has been eradicated by terrorism. Mr Advani also met attorney general John Ashcroft yesterday. Today he will meet national security advisor Condoleeza Rice, and President Bush is expected to drop by during the meeting. Finally, he is expected to have a video chat with vice-president Cheney, who is at an undisclosed location.

Few Indian visitors have been given such red carpet treatment. It is a sign that the US regards Mr Advani as the most likely successor to Mr Vajpayee as prime minister. It is also a sign of the new closeness of bilateral ties. Mr Advani himself referred to the two countries as the “Twin Towers of Democracy”, that could not be destroyed by any al Qaeda.

On Friday, Mr Advani will also have a meeting with FBI to discuss the strengthening of internal security. The US may collaborate in setting up a Centre for Counter-Terrorism in India The Sandia National Laboratory will also brief him on border monitoring techniques.

Some regard Mr Advani’s visit as an attempt to improve BJP’s stock in Uttar Pradesh before next month’s election. In Washington, Mr Advani has been firm and uncompromising, but has not breathed fire or resorted to any theatricals for the benefit of a UP audience. The battle of UP will not be won on the playing fields of Washington.

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