President Bush yesterday said he would tell world leaders at the United Nations today that he wants cooperation, not commiseration, now that the war against terrorism is about to enter its sixth week.
“The time of sympathy is over; we appreciate the condolences,” Mr. Bush said during a brief news conference with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. “Now is the time for action. Now is the time for coalition members to respond in their own way.”
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the president will use today’s speech to give “a fuller explanation of the Bush doctrine, in which those who harbor terrorists will also be held accountable for their actions just as guilty as the terrorists.”
Yet Mr. Bush also will meet in New York today with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the only world leader who refuses to sever ties with Afghanistan’s Taliban regime. Pakistan is also home to religious schools known as madrassas, many of whom are known to foster terrorism.
Although some in India are unnerved by Pakistan’s growing alliance with the United States, the subject was not broached during Mr. Vajpayee’s meeting and lunch with Mr. Bush yesterday, said Sean McCormack, spokesman for the National Security Administration.
But the two leaders discussed the disputed region of Kashmir, where India and Pakistan have been battling for years. During yesterday’s news conference in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Mr. Vajpayee made a point of recalling an Oct. 1 bomb attack against the Indian legislative assembly in Kashmir.
“Even Pakistan realized that it was a case of terrorism,” Mr. Vajpayee said. “We have to fight terrorism in all its forms.”
Mr. Bush, who accepted an invitation by Mr. Vajpayee to visit India as soon as possible, seemed irritated by an Indian reporter’s suggestion that the United States has a double standard on terrorism.
“When terrorism hits America, you go halfway across the world and make war in Afghanistan,” the journalists said. “But when we suffer terrorism, you ask us to be restrained. Is an Indian life less precious than an American life?”
Mr. Bush replied: “I think there’s one universal law, and that’s terrorism is evil. And all of us must work to reject evil. Murder is evil, and we must reject murder.”
When the reporter tried to interrupt, Mr. Bush added icily: “Excuse me. Our coalition is strong because leaders such as the prime minister fully understand that we must reject terrorism in all its forms.”
During today’s meeting with Gen. Musharraf, “the president will discuss the need for stability in the region and for a peaceful resolution between India and Pakistan over any other disputes,” Mr. Fleischer said.
Acknowledging the administration’s balancing act between India and Pakistan, he added: “There is a general understanding about the sensitivities in the region.”
The White House is also sensitive to Saudi Arabia’s ambivalence about the war against terrorism. Although Saudi Arabia has granted limited use of its airfields to U.S. troops, its royal family has given money to madrassas as a way to mute criticism from fundamentalist Saudi clerics.
Mr. Bush met yesterday with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who on Thursday criticized the president for meeting with Israeli leaders but refusing to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
“The thing that is so sad is that what is needed to make peace is very little,” the prince told the New York Times. “He cannot be an honest broker and only meet with one side.”
Mr. McCormack yesterday reiterated that the president would not meet with the Palestinian leader when the two men attend the United Nations session this weekend.
Before meeting with Prince al-Faisal yesterday, Mr. Bush shrugged off the prince’s criticism, insisting “our coalition has never been stronger.” After the meeting, the prince left the White House without addressing reporters who were waiting for him in the driveway.
The president, who was described by his wife Thursday as an impatient man, is expected to display a touch of that impatience in today’s address to the United Nations.
“You will hear the president put the world on notice that he is appreciative of the fact [that] some nations have expressed sympathy,” Mr. Fleischer said. “But sympathy only is not good enough; that nations need to take actions.”