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|February 24, 1999||
India-Pak make 'significant progress', says US
The Clinton administration has noted the ''significant progress'' that Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief had made at their week-end summit in Lahore which is important for both the countries and the region's security.
''We think they made significant progress in the agreements they have made there. We think that's important for both countries and for the security situation in the subcontinent,'' White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said yesterday while replying to questions.
He said President Clinton wrote to Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Sharief prior to their summit meeting this past weekend ''to applaud them on their courage of getting together for the summit meeting that they had.''
On whether Clinton might be planning a trip to India and Pakistan later in the year, Lockhart said, ''I don't have anything on that.''
Asked if the United States played a role in those discussions, Lockhart said the talks were primarily going on between the parties. But deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott ''has been to the region numerous times and has worked very hard in trying to bring the parties together on a wide variety of issues, including on proliferation, which is an issue that we take quite an important interest in.''
Later, State Department deputy spokesman James Foley said, ''We are pleased that they have discussed steps to address nuclear concerns, including confidence building measures and methods to avoid accidental conflict.''
''We also commend the attention paid in the Lahore Declaration, issued at the end of the meeting, to improving the quality of life of the people of India and Pakistan. The two leaders clearly understand that economic growth and social progress are central to the futures of their countries, as they are to all countries around the world.''
''The success of the weekend's meeting demonstrates the ability of Pakistan and India to work together to resolve their differences and to look to the future, not to the past,'' Foley added.
''While the United States and the international community have encouraged them to resolve their differences through face-to-face discussions at a senior level,'' the spokesman pointed out, the decisions to take this courageous step were made by the two prime ministers. ''They deserve the full credit for this successful meeting,'' he added.
Congressional caucus on India and Indian-American co-chairman Gary L Ackerman, who had always opposed the intervention by the United States or the United Nations in the India-Pakistan dispute said the Lahore summit had vindicated his stand.
Mr Ackerman, who was in New Delhi and met Vajpayee before his departure for Lahore, said, ''I am not only impressed by the prime minister's vision, but by his self-assurance in placing squarely on the table every issue India faces with its neighbours.''
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