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Straw meets Indian Minister of External Affairs

Foreign Secretary meets Indian Minister of External Affairs

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Jasawant Singh, have given a press conference after they met in New Delhi. Although touching on Gujerat and Afghanistan, the dominant subject of the discussion, said Mr Straw, 'was the regional issue and the potential of conflict across the line of control between India and Pakistan'.

The Foreign Secretary said:

"This is, again as I emphasised yesterday in Islamabad, a bilateral issue, a matter between the Government and peoples of India and the Government and peoples of Pakistan, but it is a bilateral matter with obvious international implications."

Mr Straw added that discussions would continue after the press conference.

An edited transcript of the press conference given by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Jaswant Singh, in New Delhi is available below.


Jaswant Singh:

Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, and good afternoon. It is my very great pleasure and honour to welcome again my friend and distinguished colleague, the Rt Hon Jack Straw. We have had, as always we have, a very candid and I believe a very fruitful and wide ranging discussion on bilateral issues, also on the current regional situation. We touched briefly on the situation in Afghanistan, we discussed at some length India and Pakistan and the present situation. We also briefly discussed Jammu and Kashmir, and also Gujerat.

I am very happy always to have this opportunity to discuss issues with Jack, not simply in his personal capacity which of course I greatly admire, but also as a high representative of Her Majesty's Government and I am very happy that we have had the chance. And we will now, after you have grilled us, go and continue with our work at lunch. Thank you for being here.

Foreign Secretary:

Thank you very much Jaswant. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a real honour for me to be back here in Delhi at the invitation of my good friend, Jaswant Singh, the Foreign Minister for the government of India.

As Jaswant has indicated, we had a wide ranging discussion, it included a brief discussion on a number of bilateral issues, a discussion on the issue of the Gujerat, which I also discussed with Home Minister Advani earlier today. And then obviously the dominant subject of the discussion was the regional issue and the potential of conflict across the line of control between India and Pakistan, between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan administered Kashmir.

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I reiterated what I said yesterday in Islamabad, that the United Kingdom Government stands foursquare with civilised governments around the world, particularly with the government of India, in our approach to terrorism.

This is a matter which I have discussed at length with representatives of the government of India since I first became the Home Secretary five years ago and there were a lot of discussions when I was Home Secretary with Home Minister Advani when I spent a week in India in September of the year 2000 on how we co-ordinated our approach to terrorism and how we shared an opinion that there was one definition of terrorism, that definition was laid down by law.

Now I might say laid down by international law in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373, and that definition includes cross-border terrorism and it includes terrorism labelled as freedom fighters, freedom fighting terrorism. So I made that clear yesterday in Islamabad and I am happy to make it clear again today, and it is because of our common approach that we have backed the Government of India in their text for a comprehensive convention on terrorism which is currently before the United Nations.

All of us are aware of the state of tension which currently exists across the line of control. This is, again as I emphasised yesterday in Islamabad, a bilateral issue, a matter between the Government and peoples of India and the Government and peoples of Pakistan, but it is a bilateral matter with obvious international implications. And I have offered our views about the importance which I know is shared by the government of India of doing everything that can be done to ensure that this conflict is resolved other than by an escalation of military action. And as Jaswant has said, after taking a few questions from you we will then be resuming our discussions.


To Jack Straw: General Musharraf says infiltration has stopped, India says it is still going on, which side do you believe?

Foreign Secretary:

One of the issues here is the question of verification, but as I said yesterday in Islamabad, the test of any statement by country leaders is by action and not words and there has to be a measurement of this on the ground. But we of course, and the international community, look to President Musharraf to ensure that this undertaking which he has made now public is fully followed through.


Foreign Secretary, what exactly did you discuss about Gujerat with Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Advani? Did the possibility of Narendra Mordi being prosecuted in Britain figure in your discussions?

Foreign Secretary:

The position of the Chief Minister of the Gujerat is a matter for the Union Government and the Government of the Gujerat and that is an internal matter. I raised consular matters on behalf of British people which happens, as is well known, to include constituents of mine, my constituency of Blackburn.

There were two people who were killed who were British citizens and I have met their relatives in London, they don't happen to be constituents of mine, and I talked about that and other matters related to it, the importance of there being a thorough investigation by the police in this Gujerat state to bring those perpetrators to justice, and I touched on the issue of the payment of compensation as well. I may say, as you fully understand, this is principally a matter for the Home Ministry but I felt as a matter of courtesy I should mention it to Jaswant as well.


A question for Mr Singh. You have repeated your demand for General Musharraf to live up to his assurances. How long are you prepared to give him to do so?

Jaswant Singh:

No, it is not for me to establish time frames of fulfilling commitments that General Musharraf has made not simply to India, but commitments that he has made to the international community. India has waited patiently for the fulfilment of those commitments, they are vital for peace, they are also indeed vital as input to the global fight today against terrorism.


To Jaswant Singh. There is a question of verification. Is the government of India considering any fresh mechanism for verification of infiltration and offer this government, this evidence to the world to say that verification which could result in substantiating what you said yesterday about the nuclearisation of terrorists?

Jaswant Singh:

There are verifications of various kinds that are inherent in your question, verification about what I said yesterday about the nuclearisation of terrorism in Pakistan and the grave danger of it, there is also verification of assertions made by the leadership of Pakistan and there are many proposals in this regard, it would be unwise to prematurely put all those proposals on the table but at the appropriate time and when the right climate is re-established they can all be considered as actionable items.


To Jack Straw: Mr Minister, you met General Musharraf yesterday in Islamabad, can you tell us about your impressions with your meeting with General Musharraf and is he serious about containing terrorism?

Foreign Secretary:

I gave a brief commentary on my meeting yesterday in Islamabad where I described it as constructive and forthright, it continued for 75 minutes, it was a long and detailed meeting. I believe that President Musharraf is serious, but as I said earlier the test of all these things has to be action and not just words and there is a crucial imperative upon the leadership and the government of Pakistan to ensure that there is an effective and continuous sealing of the line of control and an end to the supplying of the terrorist freedom fighters, militants, call them what you will, that have been operating in Jammu and Kashmir.


Mr Singh, the bottom line, are you going to give General Musharraf time to implement this crackdown on cross-border terrorism or are you not? You say that your patience has run out and everybody who has been here has said that your patience is wearing very thin, are you going to give them time or are you not and how long would that be?

Jaswant Singh:

General Musharraf has had all the time that he wants. We are talking about a crackdown on terrorism since 11 September and I don't want to go into the entire narrative of 11 September within 20 days of it being followed by 1 October and the attack on the State Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. After all the entire narration of events there is already enough time that General Musharraf has had, it is vital that he recognises the urgency of the situation.


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