- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

Only in India

The worst violence between Hindus and Muslims in India in a decade ended as quickly as it began, and Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh thinks that has something to do with the Indian character.

"The violence that took place is shameful," he said in a recent speech. "For a country that prides itself on religious harmony, the fact that so many people were killed no matter from which community that fact is Indians of different religions were killed."

About 750 people were killed in riots that followed the outbreak of violence Feb. 27 when a Muslim mob torched a train carrying Hindus determined to build a temple at the site of a mosque in the state of Gujarat.

Mr. Mansingh noted that the violence was confined to three cities and about a dozen villages in a state with 50 million people, more than a dozen cities and 18,000 villages, according to a report in the newspaper India Abroad.

"I dare say if this had happened in any other country, there would have been a holocaust," he told an audience at Washington's University Club.

"But because we are India, we managed to contain it, and within three days, Hindus and Muslims were having a peace march through the streets of Ahmedabad, past the burnt houses and shops," he said, referring to one of the cities where the worst violence took place. "They went to the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi and prayed there.

"I think that is the spirit of India," he said, urging observers not to "exaggerate what happens in India."

"There are sparks now and then, considering our size, our history, our track record. We love to keep faith in India because for us, this is part of our national culture. We respect our religions."

Pakistan honored

Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi has been honored for her services to her country during the difficult months since September 11.

The National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs this week praised her as "the diplomat of the highest order in the service of Pakistan."

"Diplomats and policy-makers attending the award lunch said that Ambassador Lodhi, in very difficult circumstances, demonstrated a unique ability to translate Pakistan's interests to the United States and the international community," the Pakistani Embassy said yesterday in announcing her award.

Road to Pyongyang

The road to North Korea is getting crowded with U.S. diplomats, active and retired, working to help reopen a dialogue with the isolated Stalinist regime.

Charles Pritchard, a special envoy on Korean affairs, is due in South Korea today to consult with South Korean officials about their diplomatic overtures to the North.

Donald Gregg, ambassador to South Korea under the first President Bush, arrived in South Korea earlier this week to discuss his recent four-day visit to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

Mr. Gregg met with South Korean Foreign Minister Choi Sung-hong yesterday, government officials told Reuters news agency.

Last week, Lim Dong-won, a South Korean presidential envoy, returned from North Korea with a joint agreement aimed at restarting reconciliation projects frozen last year.

Mr. Lim said North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed a desire to resume talks with the United States. North Korea had been reluctant to deal with President Bush and was angered by being included in the "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq.

Not backing down

The U.S. ambassador to Bahrain is standing by his words, despite protests over his call for Bahrainis to mourn the lives of Israelis killed by Palestinian suicide bombers.

"I believe that mourning for the innocent lives being lost on both sides is the least we owe to our common humanity," Ambassador Ronald Neumann said in a statement.

Mr. Neumann, in an address to a student audience last week, asked for a moment of silence for the Israeli victims after students held a moment of silence for Palestinians killed by the Israeli army incursion into Palestinian-controlled areas.

His statement sparked protests outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Manama.

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