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|July 20, 1998||
ASEAN may invite Pakistan over Indian objections
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is considering a Japanese government proposal to invite Pakistan to a regional security forum in Manila this month despite objections from India, an official said on Tuesday.
Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Lauro Baja said Pakistan has been informed of the possibility of its participation and has prepared a delegation to the ASEAN regional forum, which meets on Monday, July 27.
ASEAN had difficulty deciding how to collectively react to India's nuclear tests in a way that would not offend the country, one of its "dialogue partners'' in the regional forum.
Baja said senior ASEAN officials met on Monday night in Manila to discuss Pakistan's possible inclusion in the forum. On Wednesday, the officials are to discuss whether to name India and Pakistan in a statement on the nuclear tests, and whether to use the word "condemn'' in the statement, he said.
"It's a bit bloody,'' Baja said of the differing positions of ASEAN member countries on how to deal with the two issues.
Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon has said India's Minister of State for External Affairs Vasundhara Raje objected to Pakistan's proposed attendance and even urged ASEAN to omit any mention of the two countries' names in discussions on the nuclear issue.
Siazon said Raje told him the problem is "essentially between India and Pakistan and that they should be given the opportunity and ample time to work on this bilateral problem and hopefully present a common solution.''
The Filipino official said he explained to Raje the forum's proposal to include Pakistan in the meeting to prevent a "one-sided'' discussion since India is already a member.
Raje was in Manila last month as part of a tour -- including visits to Vietnam and Singapore -- that was aimed at winning friends in the aftermath of its nuclear tests.
ASEAN consists of Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Its dialogue partners in the ASEAN regional forum are Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
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