Friday, September 21, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Blackwill soothes Muslim sentiments
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 20
The US Ambassador to India, Mr Robert Blackwill today attempted to assuage the feelings of Muslims in India by explaining the position of his country to leaders of the community here.

US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill.
US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill speaks to reporters after a meeting with Muslim representatives in New Delhi on Thursday. — Reuters photo

The US Ambassador explained that the September 11 strikes on American cities had nothing to do with Islam which was a religion of “profound peace” and that his country was only against terrorism.

“The US President and all of the American people know that Islam is a religion of profound peace. The September 11 incidents have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam,” US Ambassador Robert Blackwill told reporters after over an hour-long meeting with Muslim leaders here.

Mr Blackwill said there was “very good conversation” at the meeting with Muslim scholars and religious leaders.

He said there was “complete meeting of minds” on two fundamental issues - the guilty must be punished and terrorism stamped out “wherever it is found” and innocents be protected.

“There is no political justification for innocents being harmed for political purposes. As the USA and India work together we will win the war against terrorism,” he said.

Maulana Dhaidullah Khan Azmi, a Janata Dal MP, who was among the 14 Muslim representatives present at the meeting, condemned the attacks on USA and said Osama bin Laden should be punished “if he is behind it.... But there should be concrete evidence about it and the proof should be placed before the entire world.”

Blackwill cancelled his visit to Jama Masjid yesterday for a meeting with Imam Syed Ahmed Shah Bukhari following his statements that any attack on the “innocent people” of Afghanistan “will be treated as an attack on the Muslim.


Services Chiefs cancel visits
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 20
The developing security scenario in the Indian sub-continent has forced all three service chiefs to cancel their scheduled visits abroad beginning this week.

Pressing security demands at home and the impending American strikes on Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden’s bases in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan have forced the three Service Chiefs to be available at home. While the Chief of Air Staff and the Chief of Army Staff would have been away from the country for almost a week, the Chief of Naval Staff was to have been away for two days.

According to reports, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal A.Y. Tipnis was to have been away for a week from September 18 on a goodwill visit to the UAE and Oman and the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. S. Padmanabhan, was to have been in South Africa for a week from September 17.

Incidentally, India is looking to buy Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs) from South Africa and final negotiations were expected to have been completed during this visit of General Padmanabhan. India is also looking to purchase ammunition for the 155 mm guns and spare parts from South Africa.

The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sushil Kumar, who is also the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), was to have been on a goodwill visit to Hanoi (Vietnam) for two days from September 17.

Sources in the government said that in the present fluid situation where even internal security demands could possibly develop overnight there were clear instructions that all senior officers of the three armed forces should be available on hand at short notice. Besides, the government has also been in constant touch with the three chiefs for their opinion on the fast changing security scenario in the region.

Not only the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) but even the Union Cabinet has been reviewing the security scenario on a regular basis ever since the ‘Black Tuesday’. The CCS in fact, met almost throughout the last week, discussing various security implications for India America.

Although in the normal circumstances one of the three service chiefs can represent the three services at the CCS, but in the present situation, all three have been attending the security review meetings.

The three chiefs were also expected to be available in the country as the CCS would be reviewing the security conditions now that Afghanistan has indirectly refused to hand over Osama bin Laden to America and instead asked him to leave the country on his own. The opinion of the three chiefs would be of immense importance for the government to decide on its course of further action.

Among other things the three services had been asked by the CCS last week to furnish details on what assistance India could provide to the US forces in the event of Washington deciding to launch an offensive against Kabul. India has offered to provide any kind of assistance to the USA in its war against terrorism, which has also been New Delhi’s scourge for years.

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