- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

India knows terrorism
The war on terrorism will top the agenda when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee meets President Bush in Washington next week.
"We have faced terrorism for the last 20 years. … Sixty thousand Indians have lost their lives," Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.
"We know what terrorism is … and what a terrible enemy it is to fight."
The "priority is the war on terrorism," he explained, describing the agenda being developed for the first face-to-face meeting between the Indian leader and the American president on Nov. 9.
Mr. Vajpayee will also work to build on the improvements in U.S.-Indian relations begun under President Clinton, Mr. Mansingh added.
The visit is "not just in the context of September 11 but in the new relationship we are developing," he said.
Mr. Vajpayee will also emphasize the stability of the world's largest democracy and its reliability as a strong U.S. ally in southern Asia, the ambassador said.
The prime minister's trip will follow visits here by his national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and a visit to India by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell all since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Mr. Mansingh said the prime minister will also discuss plans for the rebuilding of Afghanistan and express his concerns for the stability of Pakistan.
India and Pakistan are long-time regional rivals, and India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism against it. But both now possess nuclear weapons, and India fears that the weapons could fall into the hands of Islamic militants if the current Pakistani government collapses.
"We can only pray for the stability of Pakistan," he said.
Mr. Mansingh said India and the United States are the victims of the same type of terrorism. India accuses Pakistan of supporting terrorism in Kashmir and in the northeast corner of the country. It also faces attacks from militant Sikhs in Punjab.
"There is no difference from the terrorism the U.S. is facing and the terrorism we are facing," he said, referring to the link between Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network and certain levels of the Pakistani government.
He rejected comparisons between terrorists and freedom fighters.
"Terrorism cannot have any qualifications," he said "It is like a cancer in the body. … You must stamp it out."

U.S. overreacting?
The Venezuelan ambassador believes the United States is overreacting to his president's criticism of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan.
But he understands Washington's anger.
Ambassador Ignacio Arcaya said his country is a partner in the war on terrorism and, as one of the United States' primary oil suppliers, has promised to increase production if the Mideast oil is cut because of the Afghan war.
"There is no difference on the substance of the matter," he told Embassy Row yesterday. "We are part of the anti-terrorist coalition."
Mr. Arcaya was responding to U.S. anger over remarks by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. This week Mr. Chavez said there is "no justification of any kind" for civilian casualties in the war and compared the bombing campaign to fighting "terror with more terror."
The White House, State Department and the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela denounced his comments.
Mr. Arcaya said, "The president did not criticize the action. He said we should avoid innocent casualties."
"There has been a little bit of overreaction [from the U.S. government], but I understand it," Mr. Arcaya said. "What happened here was horrible. The United States is fighting a very difficult war. The enemy is invisible."

Czech help sought
The U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic has asked for Czech military help in the war on terrorism.
Ambassador Craig Stapleton met with Prime Minister Milos Zeman to request military units that specialize in decontamination from exposure to chemical or biological weapons. He also asked for field hospitals and Czech special forces units, if needed.
Mr. Zeman immediately agreed to the U.S. requests, the Czech news agency, CTK, reported yesterday.


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