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|June 25, 1998||
India turns away 3-member UN team
India has declined to receive a three-member UN team deputed by Secretary General Kofi Annan to help defuse tensions in South Asia.
Commenting on the visit of the UN officials, an external affairs ministry spokesman said in New Delhi that India had reiterated on a number of occasions that there was no scope for a third-party involvement of any nature whatsoever in respect of India's relations with Pakistan.
He said, ''India-Pakistan issues are purely bilateral and should be resolved through dialogue.''
The spokesman said the UN secretary-general was always welcome to visit India for discussions on global issues, including global disarmament on which India's views are well known.
''There are no current plans for any UN official visit to India,'' he added.
The spokesman said the prime ministers of India and Pakistan would meet in Colombo next month on the occasion of the SAARC summit when the ''bilateral process between India and Pakistan is expected to be carried forward.''
He recalled that in March, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had written to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, setting out India's basic principles on bilateral relations.
The UN team, headed by Assistant Secretary General Alvaro de Sato, would visit Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The other members are Rolf Kantsson, executive assistant officer to de Soto and Horst Beidmann, political officer.
Earlier, Annan has decided to send a special envoy to South Asia with an avowed objective of reducing tension in the region following the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan last month.
The announcement was made at the UN headquarters in New York shortly before de Soto's departure for the region.
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard had said de Soto will deliver Annan's ''personal messages'' to the leaders of the region and prepare the ground for his own eventual visit.
The envoy's first stop will be Dhaka where he will call on Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and from there he will leave for New Delhi and Islamabad to see the leaders of the two countries, including Vajpayee and Sharief.
Though de Soto is not going to act as a mediator between India and Pakistan, he will definitely encourage a dialogue between the two parties to sort out bilateral differences, including those on Kashmir, a UN official said.
India does not want a third party intervention in its problems with Pakistan, preferring to settle all bilateral issues, including Kashmir, through dialogue as envisaged in the 1972 Simla agreement.
Pakistan, on the contrary, insists on a foreign intervention in the Kashmir dispute, and its ambassador to the UN, Ahmed Kamal, had urged Annan early this month to visit the region and help defuse tension caused by the nuclear tests.
He welcomed the visit by the UN envoy to the region, saying, ''It is absolutely necessary that the secretary general gets personally involved in South Asia.''
Earlier, UN spokesman Eckhard, in his prepared statement said, ''Following the explosion of nuclear devices by India and Pakistan last month, the secretary general has been in contact with leaders of the region in an effort to help reduce tension. In pursuance of these efforts he has decided to dispatch de Soto on a visit to the countries in the region to deliver personal messages to their leaders and to prepare for his own eventual visit there.''
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