As his top envoy toured India and Pakistan, US President George W Bush, in a significant gesture, on Thursday had a 15-minute meeting with National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra focusing on the fresh Indo-Pak peace overtures, at the Oval office.
Bush dropped by when Mishra was in a scheduled meeting with his counterpart Condoleezza Rice at the White House.
Official sources told PTI that it was not a 'drop by' but a 'substantive' 15-minute meeting on the day US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was visiting Pakistan before heading for India.
Addressing a press conference to give details about his talks with Bush and other officials, Mishra said he discussed bilateral relations as well as the prime minister's initiative, the steadily deepening US-India relations and the situation in Afghanistan.
To questions about the US role vis-a-vis India and Pakistan, Mishra said the role Washington plays and wants to play is the prevention of a conflict between India and Pakistan, not in the solution of the Kashmir problem.
It is very clear that the interest of the US and other countries in preventing a conflict between India and Pakistan is a legitimate interest. India herself has long advocated that there should be peace in the region, Mishra said.
One also has to make a distinction between negotiations on Kashmir, which are bilateral issues, and the desire of the international community to prevent a conflict.
"Unless you have that distinction in mind," Mishra said, "You will not understand what is going on between the US and India and other countries."
The US and other countries have talked to Islamabad a number of times to prevent cross-border terrorism and India recognises that. But whether the results are satisfactory from the Indian point of view is a different question, he said.
Mishra emphasised that if there is to be a sustained dialogue with Pakistan, cross-border terrorism has to end.
On the distinction the US itself draws between terrorism directed at it, which it finds inexcusable, and Pakistani cross-border terrorism, which it suggests should be resolved through dialogue, Mishra said on that India and the US disagree.
So "I would rather focus on something we agree upon, which is to expand Indo-US relations rather than get diverted by US-Pakistan relations," he added.
That has been made very clear a number of times by Prime Minister Vajpayee. That has been conveyed to Pakistan's Prime Minister Mir Jafarullah Khan Jamali also. There are a number of issues to be settled with Pakistan and the prime minister has said it has to be done stage-by-stage, he added.
"We must not jump into some meeting or anything like that. Apparently Pakistan has also said we must proceed stage-by-stage."
Regarding his meeting with Powell, which lasted 45 minutes, Mishra said, "Again, we talked about bilateral issues as also the regional situation. We also touched upon the situation in Afghanistan."
Later, state department spokesman Richard Boucher described the meeting between Mishra and Powell as 'very good' and said the US, if necessary, would help in the process of improving Indo-Pak ties.
About his meeting with Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz, Mishra said he believes the Defence Policy Group of the two countries will meet in the last week or so as part of the ongoing interaction between the two countries, which have held joint army exercises and conducted joint naval patrols.
About his talks with Armitage in London, Mishra said they had a general discussion.
Mishra renewed India's invitation to Bush to visit the country to which the latter said he was keen to visit India but could not say when.
More from rediff