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Ground action must supplement bombing: Vajpayee

Tarun Basu in Moscow

As he headed for Washington, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Wednesday gave his most unequivocal support for the US military campaign in Afghanistan and said ground action must supplement bombing to produce results.

"Only bombing cannot win wars," Vajpayee said at a press conference wrapping up his four-day visit to Russia from where he goes straight to Washington for a meeting with US President George W Bush.

"Bombing can only lay the foundation. But till such time ground action supplements the bombing, it cannot produce results," an unusually categorical Vajpayee said in response to a question on India's perception of the American bombing of Afghanistan that completed a month on Wednesday.

Vajpayee even seemed to regret that though India had supported the US action since the beginning, its offer of support had not been fully utilised.

The US has been relying a lot on Pakistan's frontline status for logistical, operational and intelligence support for the campaign, an alliance that has not gone down too well in New Delhi, which was one of the first countries to offer support.

Vajpayee once again ruled out any talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in New York, saying the atmosphere was not right for talks because violence had increased in Jammu and Kashmir and terrorists backed by Islamabad continued to kill innocents.

The prime minister expressed 'complete satisfaction' with his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and described as 'excellent' their discussions centred around the situation in Afghanistan and its future political set-up.

Vajpayee, in fact, went beyond what Putin said at his press conference on Tuesday to say that Russia had recognised the 'inadequacy' of the present 6+2 international consultative mechanism on Afghanistan and wanted it to be expanded to include countries like India.

The 6+2 countries are Afghanistan's neighbours Pakistan, China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, besides the US and Russia.

Putin, while appearing to stand by the 6+2 arrangement, had acknowledged the need to have India involved in international discussions on the post-Taleban political set-up of that country.

India, which considers itself a near neighbour of Afghanistan with long historical links with that country, wants to have a greater say in its political future along with countries like France, Japan and Germany that are currently not part of the UN monitored mechanism.

Vajpayee said he would impress upon Bush the need for India's involvement in any international discussion on Afghanistan, a contention that does not find favour in Islamabad.

India and Russia, Vajpayee said, had 'complete identity of views' on how to tackle international terrorism. And in an oblique reference to America's Afghanistan-centred campaign, he remarked: "Partial solutions based on short term political considerations can only aggravate the problem in the long run."

He recalled Putin's statement that there were no good or bad terrorists and suggested that the question of "double standards" in the American approach to terrorism would be taken up with Bush whom he meets Friday at the White House.

He said his visit to Moscow and St Petersburg had helped to expand areas of shared outlook and added new elements to the 'strategic partnership' between the countries.

He said the issues ranged from terrorism to nuclear energy, and from Afghanistan to science and technology, trade, economic cooperation, investment and defence.

He, however, declined to spell out the areas of defence cooperation, but officials said the two countries were near agreement on the Indian purchase of a refitted Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, and the lease of nuclear-capable strategic bombers by the Indian Air Force.

Indo-Asian News Service

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