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Shyam Saran warns Rice on Pak arms deal

November 20, 2004 19:39 IST
Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran expressed India's concerns over the Pentagon's decision to provide Pakistan with a $1.2 billion military package and the potential sale of F-16 aircraft during a meeting with US Secretary of State designate Condoleezza Rice on Friday.

But though he was given a patient hearing, he was given no assurances on these concerns.

Saran, who met with several other senior US officials,besides Rice-- many of them on their way out like Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage and Under Secretary of State Mark Grossman--told journalists at the end his meeting that, "I did raise our strong concern at reports of impending arms sales by the United States to Pakistan, and pointed out the repercussions that such supplies could have on the ongoing India-Pakistan dialogue, which were posed at a rather sensitive juncture."

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"During the first term of President Bush's Administration, India-US relations have seen very significant transformation and the United States in India is perceived today as a strategic partner, particularly in terms of our shared democratic values," he told Rice.

"The supply of sophisticated weaponry to Pakistan will inevitably impact on the positive sentiments and goodwill that have come to characterize India-US relations."

But Rice mouthed the standard spiel, saying the "US very much valued its relationship with India," and that President Bush had "made a personal commitment to taking the relationship with India forward."

And though Washington did have an arms relationship with Islamabad, "it was and remained very supportive of the India-Pakistan dialogue," she said.

Saran said that "in this context, it was also mentioned to me that the US would continue to take up India's concerns about cross-border terrorism," with Pakistan.

Though senior Administration officials have said that the sale of F-16's to Pakistan is "on the table," Saran was given the standard line that "no decision has been made in this regard so far."

The foreign secretary refused the interpret the implication of this answer, saying, "I am just telling you what was mentioned to me."

Saran, who was here for the second round of the US-India High Technology Cooperation Group meeting, also met with Deputy Defense Secretary Alan Larson and Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Alan Larson.

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"We are satisfied that although there is a transition taking place in the United States, in ever interaction we have found that there continues to be a very strong commitment to the strengthening and expansion of India-US relations," he said.

"The strategic focus of these relations remains very much there in the leadership here in the United States," and "we can look forward to the number of initiatives, which have been taken to take our relationship forward in the first term of the Bush Administration...not only to be carried forward but in fact perhaps carried forward with even greater vigor in the second term."

We can make a new Kashmir: PM

On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's decision to withdraw some troops from Kashmir as a confidence-building measure, the foreign secretary said that even without discussion of this issue, all the US officials he had met had lauded this initiative and described it "as an act of statesmanship."


Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC