Mahathir botches up phone diplomacy

Kuala Lumpur (Reuters)
Malaysia's prime minister spoke yesterday of a botched attempt to engage him in telephone diplomacy with leaders of India and Pakistan to ease tension over Jammu and Kashmir.
Mahathir Mohammed said he chatted away with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Thursday thinking that the Indian leader wanted to speak to him.
"He was thinking I was calling him. I was thinking he was calling me," he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of his political party.
"The same thing happened to (Pakistan President) Pervez Musharraf also. What they (somebody) did was to tell President Musharraf that I want to speak to him," said the 76-year-old Mahathir, who is Asia's longest serving statesman.
He did not identify the party that had tried to engage him in the rounds of telephone diplomacy.
The Indian foreign ministry issued a statement on Thursday following what it said was a "10-minute conversation" between Mahathir and Vajpayee.
"The Prime Minister emphasised that the problem between India and Pakistan are bilateral problem and that needs to be sorted out bilaterally by the two countries," it said.
According to AP, Mahathir opined during a news conference at the annual congress of his United Malays National Organisation that tension would remain as long as cross-border terrorism continues.
"If you don't look at the causes, and remove the causes, then there will be terrorism," Mahathir said.
"Of course, you can accuse states of being involved," he said. "Pakistan denies it is involved. The fact is that the causes are there, people are... angry about something."
Mahathir was recently invited by a Pakistani envoy to use his influence as Asia's longest-serving ruler to help ease tensions, though he has not been asked to mediate the dispute.

21 June 2002

Mahathir discusses standoff with Vajpayee

NEW DELHI, June 20: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad telephoned his Indian counterpart Atal Behari Vajpayee on Thursday and discussed the standoff with Islamabad, a foreign ministry statement said.

During the 10-minute conversation, "Prime Minister Vajpayee stressed that while India was not for military confrontation with Pakistan, the country was determined to resist cross-border terrorism ... with resoluteness and determination," the statement said.

Malaysia is one of the countries to which Pakistan recently dispatched an envoy to present its point of view on the standoff.

Vajpayee told Mahathir that "India (awaits) Pakistan's implementation of (Pakistan's) pledges and promises through concrete, visible and permanent action on the ground," the foreign ministry release said.

"The conversation provided a useful opportunity for conveying to the Malaysian prime minister India's clear and consistent position ... and its unflinching determination to seek a permanent end to cross-border terrorism," the statement added.-AFP