OTTAWA—Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Indian President Abdul Kalam held a subdued press conference in the Canadian Capitol building Monday to announce that the two nations have peacefully and sheepishly resolved a dispute over their common border.
"We are—well, I guess proud isn't the word—relieved, I suppose, to restore friendly relations with India after the regrettable dispute over the exact coordinates of our shared border," said Chrétien, who refused to meet reporters' eyes as he nervously crumpled his prepared statement. "The border that, er… Well, I guess it turns out that we don't share a border after all."
Chrétien then officially withdrew his country's demand that India hand over a 20-mile-wide stretch of land that was to have served as a demilitarized buffer zone between the two nations.
"Really, I think the best thing for us to do is forget about the whole thing as quickly as possible," Chrétien added. "Please."
Kalam echoed Chrétien's sentiment.
"India is, likewise, pleased that the situation has been resolved," said Kalam, who just last week demanded that Canada remove all long-range weaponry from the Western Yukon. "The news is greeted by all the people of India as a great…you know…a very great [inaudible]."
"Can this press conference be over now?" Kalam asked.
The two leaders then exchanged a brief, fumbling handshake.
No one is sure how the conflict began, but once it was set into motion, the two countries' demands became increasingly forceful. Last week, India insisted, under threat of war, that Canada withdraw its troops from the "disputed zone." Canada responded with a counter-demand that India remove its own troops from the "disputed zone."
Tensions neared the flash point Sept. 20, when units of the Indian 77th Light Infantry and the Canadian 44th "Wild Geese" Armored Cavalry assembled and glared across the borders, in each other's directions, for several hours. Throughout the standoff, both nations rejected U.N. offers of counsel.
With relations restored, both nations have declined to address specific accusations or the manner in which the conflict was ultimately resolved.
"India has always been a peaceable nation. We accept the peaceful solution whenever possible," said an Indian government official who declined to give his name. "Likewise, we are glad that our Canadian allies have joined us in seeing reason. The end."
"The people of Canada have put the matter behind them, and hope that in the future, disputes of this kind can be resolved peacefully," said Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Gerard Tollifer, who didn't take questions. "Actually, come to think of it, the Canadian people hope disputes of this kind don't ever happen in the future. And that is all we will ever need to say on this again, okay? Right. This never happened."
World leaders have met news of Canada and India's peaceful resolution with a mixture of relief and sly amusement.
"We are all pleased that these two nations were able to resolve their differences," said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, hiding his mouth behind a manila file folder. "We congratulate Canada and India on whatever they did to solve the conflict over their…their… border."