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June 23, 2000
Celeste expresses concern over attacks on Christians
United States Ambassador to India Richard Celeste today expressed serious concern over attacks on members of the Christian community, saying it was sending confusing signals about India's ''commitment to secularism and tolerance''.
At a meet the press programme at the Foreign Correspondents Club in New Delhi, Celeste hoped that the Indian government would take appropriate action against fundamentalist groups responsible for the attacks.
The US has raised the issue with Indian officials, he said.
Celeste welcomed the decision the Indian government to release Hurriyat leaders, saying, ''We are supportive of India's decision to release the Hurriyat leaders and encourage them to hold a dialogue with them.''
He was, however, non-committal on the issue of autonomy for Kashmir and said the US wanted a resolution of problems, but in a manner that respected sentiments of people of Jammu and Kashmir.
On the resumption of Indo-Pakistan dialogue, the ambassador said, ''Patience, fresh thinking and determination'' were required for taking steps towards initiation of talks.
He admitted that the Lahore process received a major setback following the Kargil conflict. There is a willingness for dialogue, but there should be a ripe time for it, he said, adding that US President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister A B Vajpayee had a candid discussion on Indo-Pak relations.
Expressing serious concern over terrorism, Celeste stressed the need for the two countries to fight the menace together. Terrorism affects India and the US directly, he remarked.
On the CTBT, Celeste said the US was waiting for the day when India would think in favour of signing the treaty. The Indian government was trying to evolve a consensus on this issue, he added.
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