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|February 17, 1999||
US hopes PMs will defuse bomb on the bus
The United States is confident that India and Pakistan will discuss the nuclear issue threadbare during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to Lahore on February 20 by the inaugural Delhi-Lahore bus.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi today, four influential members of the US Congress said the two countries must take steps to reduce the tension triggered by their tit-for-tat nuclear tests in May last year.
The congressmen, all members of the 'India caucus', welcomed Vajpayee's decision to travel to Pakistan and hoped it would go a long way in resolving the disputes between the two countries.
"Prime Minister Vajpayee deserves a great deal of credit for taking the initiative and we also welcome Pakistan's decision to accord him a grand reception," they said.
The congressmen -- Gary Ackerman, Jim McDermott, Lloyd Dogett and David Price -- are in India to attend a global conference on democracy.
Price said the "bus diplomacy" indicates that "things are moving forward as far as Indo-Pak relations are concerned".
They, however, made it clear that the US had no role to play in resolving the Kashmir dispute. "Kashmir is a regional problem... The US has already stated that we would be willing to help the two countries resolve the problem. But we have no intention of imposing ourselves on the two countries," Ackerman said.
Asked if the US would allow the World Bank to lift the economic sanctions imposed on India after the nuclear tests, the congressmen said, "It makes sense if the bank were to sanction loans to India for developmental activities."
But Dogett was of the view that along with the lifting of sanctions, there should be progress on the nuclear question in the dialogue between External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. He said he has reason to believe the talks are progressing satisfactorily.
"If everything goes well, we hope President (Bill) Clinton will be able to visit New Delhi this year," Congressman McDermott said.
The American legislators were of the view that India and the US should work in close co-ordination. "The end of the Cold War has provided a great opportunity to the two largest democracies in the world to come closer," they said.
On the recent attacks on Christians in India, they said there were some "isolated incidents". But they also appreciated that both President K R Narayanan and Prime Minister Vajpayee had denounced the attacks and promised to bring the culprits to book.
Dogett said, "We are reassured after our meetings with various representatives of the government that the government is serious in tackling violence against any community."
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