NEW DELHI, 25: India and Pakistan may be acting coy about a bilateral summit in New York next month but Washington hasn’t given up, Defence Minister George Fernandes said on Thursday.

Mr Fernandes was quoted by the Press Trust of India as giving a new mystifying clue to reporters in Patna about the possibility of a meeting that neither Islamabad nor New Delhi is being upfront about.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has been targeting President Pervez Musharraf for alleged betrayal on promises he apparently did not keep on reining in militants in Kashmir.

Similarly, Gen Musharraf has accused the entire Indian leadership of plotting military moves against his country. Mr Fernandes has been specific and categorical about the latter, saying there was no threat of an Indian march across the Line of Control.

On the likelihood of Vajpayee-Musharraf meet, he said: “According to Vajpayee’s statement, the possibility of a meeting between him and Musharraf in New York is remote, but Washington is making efforts for a dialogue between the two.”

Asked to comment on Gen Musharraf’s fear that India would attack Pakistan over alleged cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, Mr Fernandes said that New Delhi was drawing up a fresh and comprehensive strategy to deal firmly with that. “I will not disclose our plan at present,” he said when pressed.

However, remarks by Mr Fernandes to CNN on Wednesday were unambiguous and reassuring when he said India had never attacked anyone in the past and was unlikely to do so in the future.

Analysts say Mr Vajpayee too, a moderating influence in a potentially reckless Bharatiya Janata Party, has been cornered into dishing out recent strident words on Pakistan because of a clutch of state elections looming over the BJP, decidedly in need of a reliable if parochial tonic of religious bigotry or jingoistic fervour.

Mr Vajpayee won the last parliamentary polls under the cover of the Kargil conflict with Pakistan. But Kargil had a limited political currency. Something else was needed.

So a new anti-terrorist law was promulgated on Thursday by a presidential decree, apparently timed to have a helpful effect on the forthcoming elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Asked whether India was satisfied with the US campaign against global terrorism, Mr Fernandes said: “It is not a matter whether we are satisfied or dissatisfied, but we know that such a campaign will not help find a solution to the cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, nor do we have any expectation from it.”

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