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US does not want to offend Pak: Advani

Shyam Bhatia in London | June 18, 2003 00:22 IST

Indian inquiries about contributing to peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan have been rebuffed by the United States, which does not want to offend the 'susceptibilities' of Pakistan.

Visiting Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani said the issue came up during discussions (in the US) on the US request for Indian troops for peacekeeping operations in Iraq.

Addressing a press conference in London on the penultimate day of his visit to the United Kingdom, Advani said, "I was told Iraq was different and India should participate fully."

Inevitably, New Delhi's relations with Islamabad and the latest developments stemming from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's peace initiative dominated Advani's talks with both American and British officials.

"As far as infiltration is concerned, there has been no decline since April and this is on the basis of facts," he said in response to Musharraf's assertion that the Line of Control (LoC) is 'quiet' and that elements of the Indian government are blackmailing Pakistan over Kashmir.

Asked if there could be no bilateral talks with Pakistan until there was an end to cross-border terrorism, he said, "I can only repeat what the prime minister said. We want friendship, we want to discuss all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, but discussions can be purposeful only if infiltration stops and the infrastructure of terrorism is dismantled."

Recalling his conversation with Musharraf on the eve of the Agra summit, Advani said, "My plea to General Musharraf: Can we discuss this and arrive at a compromise by discussion? Peace should not be held hostage to a resolution of this discussion."

Asked to comment on Musharraf's reported statement that another Kargil-like incident could not be ruled out, Advani said his understanding was the Pakistani leader had been misquoted.

Two substantive bilateral issues that came up for discussion were the prospective release of a British subject, Peter Bleach, and that of starting direct flights between London and Ahmedabad.

Bleach is serving a prison term in Kolkata for his role in the Purulia arms drop incident. Advani said he would have a second look at the case when he returned to New Delhi.

On direct flights between London and Ahmedabad, he said, "I hope I would be able to do something" (to facilitate the flights).

Summing up his visit, Advani said, "The highlight of my visit was no doubt my meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair who was gracious enough to receive me at his doorstep in 10, Downing Street."

"Our talks were conducted in the garden and the atmosphere and ambience were excellent."

"We agreed the bilateral relationship was excellent and had huge potential. Blair paid tribute to India's strengths in Information Technology and biotechnology, stressing that these were the future areas of co-operation."

"He underlined the new confidence that was visible among India's businesses, which represented the entrepreneurial spirit. I thanked Blair for his government's support to India's case for being made a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council."

Advani in UK: Complete Coverage

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