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'US can be bigger arms supplier to India'
December 13, 2004 21:09 IST
Seeking to play down India's concern over supply of arms to Pakistan, the United States said on Monday that it would like to be a "bigger supplier" of weaponry to New Delhi.
It also dismissed New Delhi's apprehension that the US move would have negative impact on bilateral ties as well as on the India-Pakistan dialogue process.
"The US is deeply sensitive to India's views on these matters," US Ambassador David Mulford told a group of reporters in New Delhi when asked about India's concerns over the defence supplies that could adversely affect the positive sentiments for the US in India.
The US, he said, hoped that a "bigger relationship" with India could be created. "We would like to be a bigger supplier of military equipment and weapons to India," he said.
India had said that the US move could set off an arms race in the region.
"I don't see why it should have a negative impact on the dialogue", Mulford said, observing "none of these things are particularly significant in the overall military relationship between the two countries".
The US envoy was, however, non-committal on supporting India's candidature for permanent membership of an enlarged United Nations Security Council.
Washington was reflecting on the report of the committee set up by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on UN reforms and was awaiting a refined report from the UN chief by March, he said, contending it was a "very complex area" and that the US would be "extremely careful" in enunciating its policy.
Emphasising that no decision has been taken on the supply of F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan, Mulford termed as "purely hypothetical" speculation in this respect.
Referring to the recent visit of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he said it reflected the importance the US and President George W Bush attached to strategic relations with India.
Describing India as an "emerging power, a regional power and a world power with which we want a growing relationship", he said "we have a free-standing bilateral relationship with India which has its own vision of the future. This is a very, very important relationship."
Mulford said with Pakistan, there was a different vision as it did not fall in the same category of a regional and aspiring world power.
"It is important to view these relationships each in their own context. It is important for the two countries not at all times to view developments through the prism of the other relationship," he said emphasising "we are sensitive to those sensitivites. It is very important to de-hyphenate the relationship".
Costs and the issue of reliability were factors that were coming in the way of stepping up Indo-US defence relationship, he said explaining that the 1998 US sanctions led to concerns apprehensions over America being a reliable supplier.
While the administration has a policy, the US Congress can, on its own, take decisions like imposing sanctions.
Mulford, however, felt that such concerns were greatly overblown.