Wednesday, January 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Israel assures all-out support
Tribune News Service

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in New Delhi on Tuesday. 

External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in New Delhi on Tuesday. — PTI photos

New Delhi, January 8
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres today concluded his two-day visit to India during which he is understood to have assured the Indian leadership of all-out support to India in making available strategic military equipment, particularly the Phalcon airborne warning and control system (AWACS).

In fact, on the sensitive issue of sale of Phalcon AWACS to India, Mr Peres dropped enough hints at his press conference today that the USA would not be coming in the way of the airborne radar system’s sale to India. He made it clear that the American embargo on the sale of military equipment to countries like China, Russia and India pertained only to those equipment which were American and not to Israeli systems like Phalcons.

It is understood that the question of Israel leasing Phalcons to India on a short-term lease in the event of a war with Pakistan also came up during Mr Peres’ discussions with the Indian leadership. The Israeli minister’s response was “positive”, sources said.

The Phalcon issue is laden with strategic overtones as the USA had sometime back blocked Israel’s move to sell Phalcons to China. India does not have any AWACS presently and the Indian Air Force has been clamouring for these force-multiplier weapon systems. Post-Kargil, India had taken on lease an AWACS from Russia, called A-50, on an experimental and returned it after a month.

The IAF requires at least three AWACS. One Phalcon costs over Rs 1000 crore. The system, which has a target-acquiring range of more than a 1000 km and can dramatically enhance the strike capability of the user force, is better than the best of the radars “because even the best mobile radar on the ground is not fully mobile.”

Mr Peres is understood to have given his assurance of all possible cooperation to India during his significant meetings today with Defence Minister George Fernandes, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The Israeli strongman’s visit to India assumes significance in view of the current military stand-off situation in the Indian subcontinent. His pro-India attitude was all too visible at his press conference today during which he had clearly stated that Israel stood behind India.

Asked about Israeli stand if India were to find itself sucked into a war with Pakistan in the wake of December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament, Mr Peres clearly said Israel was with India. In fact, he said when Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf decided to be a part of the international coalition against terror in post-September 11 situation, “it was a surprising move”. He added that now that Gen Musharraf had made this surprise move, he had to continue with this policy and take steps to ensure that there are no terrorists in his country.Back


Blair vows to stand by Afghans

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Afghan Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (right) and Afghan Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai at a Press conference at the Bagram airbase, 60 km from Kabul, on Tuesday. — AP/PTI photo

Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, January 8
British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Afghanistan and promised its war-weary people the world would not abandon them again.

Speaking at Bagram airbase north of Kabul yesterday, Mr Blair said the world had learned how high a price was paid for neglect.

“Afghanistan has been a failed state for too long and the whole world has paid the price — in the export of terror, the export of drugs and finally in the explosion in death and destruction on the streets of the USA,” he told a news conference.

Mr Blair was the first Western Head of Government to visit Kabul since the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11. He said “extraordinary progress” had been achieved by the US-led war against the Taliban regime that harboured Osama bin Laden, suspected of ordering the attacks.

“We are always on the side of the Afghan people against the Taliban,” he said. “And we remain on the side of the Afghan people today.”

Mr Blair flew into Bagram in the dead of night on a British Royal Air Force C-130 Hercules with his wife Cherie and around a dozen officials for a three-hour visit. They left Afghanistan early today to return to London.

They were met at the airport by Mr Hamid Karzai, leader of Afghanistan’s interim government.

In his speech, Mr Blair praised British troops leading the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul.

Around 500 British troops are engaged in peacekeeping in the Afghan capital alongside local forces and troops from the USA, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada. ReutersBack

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