Clinton angers India ahead of March 20th visit

Vol 4, PW 1 (16 Feb 00) People & Policy

Indian sensitivity on Kashmir has hit home to US officials, following an offer by President Clinton to help mediate between India and Pakistan.

In comments on (Wednesday) 9th February, referring to tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, Clinton described South Asia as, that troubled part of the world, and said the potential for nuclear conflict was greater than imagined. I hope in the time that I have here we can make some progress because it is something I remain profoundly concerned about, said Clinton.

In Delhi, the comments have been construed to mean Clinton wants the US to take a direct role in peace talks between India and Pakistan. On (Saturday) 12th February, Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told Clinton to mind his own business.

We will not brook interference in our internal affairs, or allow others to meddle in our bilateral relations or problems, said Vajpayee. US officials should know - if they dont already - that there is little that annoys Indian politicians more than a suggestion that its troubled relationship with Pakistan can be resolved by outside mediation.

India obstinately believes it can settle its differences directly with Pakistan and does not need third party help. Indian suspicion of US motives was further heightened following reports that the President may make an overnight stop in Pakistan on 25th March, before heading to Bangladesh.

Indian officials are unhappy at the report, which appeared in the local Pakistani newspaper, Jung. Clinton lands in India on 20th March.

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